Do Genes Play a Role in Parental Care of Monogamous Mice?

by hartb52 on May 4, 2017 - 4:47pm

Brooke Hart
Professor Muller
BIO 206-01
Critique #3
Do Genes Play a Role in Parental Care of Monogamous Mice?
Figure 1: Peromyscus polionotus (Oldfield Mouse)
Figure 2: Peromyscus maniculatus (Deer Mouse)
Since the start of the study of animals people have come to find that parental care is essential for the survival of mammals. There was a study primarily done by Andres Bendesky and other scientsist involing monogamous mice, and what scientists sought to connect was the underlying mechanisms within the evolution of parental care. For the study two sister species of mice, Peromyscus polionotus and Peromyscus maniculatus, were used because they have contrasting heritable differences in parental behaviour. Quantitative genetics was used where the scientist identified 12 genomic regions that affected parental care amoung the mice. Some of these regions were found to affect parental care more broadly, compared to other regions that just affected specific habits, like nest building. From this scientists then found that vasopressin was differently expressed in the hypothalamus of the two mice species [1]. The scientists then manipulated vasopressin to show that increased vasopressin decreased the amount of nest building [2]. This data then lead to the conclusion that variation in an ancient neuropeptide contributes to interspecific variations in mice parental care.
I am posting about this because the fact that people are able to find a link between parental care and genetics is interesting to say the least. I believe this connection could lead to more advanced findings and research into human parental behavior. For instance, if mice have genomic regions that can be altered in order to change their parental behavior, what could be some potential possibilities for human parental care alterations? if any at all. Something to think about.
[1] Bult, A.van der Zee, E. A.Compaan, J. C. & Lynch, C. B. Differences in the number of arginine-vasopressin-immunoreactive neurons exist in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of house mice selected for differences in nest-building behaviorBrain Res. 578335338 (1992)
[2] Wang, Z.Ferris, C. F. & De Vries, G. J. Role of septal vasopressin innervation in paternal behavior in prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster)Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 91400404 (1994)


Thank you for writing this piece. It sparked my interest and I wondered if studies using vasopressin had been done on other mammals or even people. I decided to research your questions you stated at the end of your critique and found an article in New entitled “Monogamy gene found in People,” written by Priya Shetty. The author describes a study in which they found variations in the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor. This variation in the gene coding influenced how successful men were at pair bonding, according to their scores on a behavioral test.

The study stated that men having two copies of the gene variation “…were more likely to be unmarried than men with one or none, and if they were married, they were twice as likely to have marital crisis.” (Shetty, 2008). This makes me wonder if these people with the gene variation can take a supplement or something to increase their vasopressin levels. Indeed, the last sentence of the article states that the team’s next task was to test a nasal vasopressin spray and attempt to measure jealousy and altruism states!

Shetty, Priya. Monogomy Gene Found in People. New Scientist, 1 September 2008. Web:

While slightly off the topic of mice, there is a theory that early humans did not practice monogamy by default, but adopted the practice over time as our infants gradually required more care. They believe this to be a response to an increasingly advanced brain that required more time to develop properly, and a proportionately shorter gestation period coupled with a gradually increased developmental stage.

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