Dad Mice Help Out…if Prompted by the Mother

Male mice are not exactly known for their paternal care; it’s mothers who do the bulk of the work. But this doesn’t mean that fathers can’t be prompted to help out when called upon by the mothers – all ultrasonically.

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http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n1/full/ncomms2336.html

Displays of paternal mouse pup retrieval following communicative interaction with maternal mates

Compared with the knowledge of maternal care, much less is known about the factors required for paternal parental care. Here we report that new sires of laboratory mice, though not spontaneously parental, can be induced to show maternal-like parental care (pup retrieval) using signals from dams separated from their pups. During this interaction, the maternal mates emit 38-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations to their male partners, which are equivalent to vocalizations that occur following pheromone stimulation. Without these signals or in the absence of maternal mates, the sires do not retrieve their pups within 5 min. These results show that, in mice, the maternal parent communicates to the paternal parent to encourage pup care. This new paradigm may be useful in the analysis of the parental brain during paternal care induced by interactive communication.