, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 427-437

Vocalizations in newborn mice: Genetic analysis

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Abstract

Two kinds of vocalizations are produced by newborn mice: whistles (between 50 and 150 ms in length), having a narrow bandwidth in each strain that ranges from 30 to 90 kHz; and clicks, which are shorter (about 1 ms) and have a larger bandwidth. These vocalizations were individually recorded in 1-day-old pups from seven inbred strains of laboratory mice, at two temperatures (23±0.5 and 15±0.5°C). The numbers of clicks and whistles were counted under these two conditions. Moreover, the length and frequencies at the beginning, apex, and end of the whistles were measured during the 15°C condition. Correlations, including several components—additivity, epistasis (between homozygous loci), and maternal environment—were calculated between the characteristics of the whistles during the 15°C condition. Clicks and whistles were also counted from 1 to 8 days of age during the 15°C condition. The numbers of clicks and whistles were age dependent, with a decrease from day 1 to day 8 for the clicks and a consistent production of whistles. A quantitative genetic analysis was also performed on the 1-day-old pups from the mendelian generations produced by the inbred strains most contrasting for the number of whistles produced in the cold condition: NZB/BINJ and CBA/H. The heterozygous genotype of the mother induced an increment of the number of whistles. Moreover, a significant part of the additive variance was suspected from the first design, and found with the second one, for this variable. Quantitative genetic analysis showed significant dominance and epistasis between homozygous loci and homozygous and heterozygous loci. This points to multigenic correlates for the number of whistles in this population. The significant additive values for all the variables recorded during the 15±0.5°C condition and for the number of whistles produced during the 23±0.5°C condition are compatible with an effect the indicates neither directional nor stabilizing selection. This results is examined in the light of the multichannel sensorial process implicated in maternal behavior in mice.

This paper is dedicated to Professor René-Guy Busnel, who initiated P.L.R., Ch.C.-S., and M.C. in acoustics, several years ago.