Influence of kinship and familiarity on the social and reproductive behaviour of female mongolian gerbils

P. Valsecchi, M. Razzoli, E. Choleris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A series of studies focused on kin discrimination and inbreeding avoidance in female Mongolian gerbils. Kin discrimination was examined in a novel free choice test, as well as by the more traditional reproductive test. The former entailed an ethological analysis of the behaviour of female gerbils in either a binary or a multiple choice with different males while the latter involved the pairing of females with different classes of male gerbils. The binary choice experiment, during which a female chose between a male Sibling Raised Together and a male Non-Sibling Raised Apart, showed that female choice was biased by individual male cues other than kinship. The multiple choice experiment, during which a female chose between Sibling Raised Together, Non-Sibling Raised Apart, Non-Sibling Raised Together and Sibling Raised Apart males, revealed that female gerbils expressed a preference based on relatedness. The pairing of Sibling Raised Together, Non-Sibling Raised Apart and Sibling Raised Apart animals did not reveal any tendency to avoid inbreeding. Taken together, these results show that female gerbils are capable of kin discrimination on the base of kin per se, even though they did not show this ability in all the experimental contexts. This highlights the exquisite sensitivity of social assessment in female Mongolian gerbils, and points towards new investigations on inbreeding avoidance in this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-253
Number of pages15
JournalEthology Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Dr Marco Lugli who provided the software for behavioural analysis and Dr Rosangela Cinquetti for the cytological advice; Dr Martin Kavaliers for his valuable advise on the design of the multiple choice experimental apparatus and for a revision of an early version of the manuscript; Dr Margherita Inzoli and Dr Pieralberto Valsecchi for the drawing the apparatuses; Valeria Vascelli and Romano Romani for their technical assistance. This study was supported by grants from CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche) and MURST (Ministero dell’Università e della Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica) to Paola Valsecchi. The Italian (DL 116/92) and EEC (86/609) guidelines for animal care and welfare have been followed in conducting of the research.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Females
  • Free choice test
  • Gerbils
  • Inbreeding avoidance
  • Kin discrimination
  • Social behaviour


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