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Female mice exhibit less overall variance, with a higher proportion of structured variance, than males at multiple timescales of continuous body temperature and locomotive activity records


Despite recent work demonstrating that female rodents and humans do not show greater variance in behavior and physiology than males due to ovulatory cycles, many researchers still default to using males in their investigations. Although government funding agencies now require inclusion of female subjects where applicable, the erroneous belief that the study of males reduces overall data variance continues to result in male subject bias. Recently, we reported the first direct experimental refutation of this belief by examining continuous body temperature and locomotor activity in male and female mice. These findings revealed that males exceeded female variance within and across individuals over time, showing greater variance within a day than females do across an entire estrous cycle. However, the possibility remains that male variance within a day is impacted by ultradian rhythms, analogous to the influence of infradian estrous cycles on female variance, and both sexes show predictable, structured variance across the day. If structures underlying variance can be predicted, then the variance can be statistically accounted for, reducing experimental error and increasing precision of measurements. Here we assess these continuous body temperature and activity data for the contributions of structured and unstructured variance to overall variance within and across individuals at ultradian, circadian, and infradian timescales. In no instance do females exceed male variance, and in most instances male variance exceeds female variance. Additionally, more female variance is accounted for by temporal structure. In conclusion, even when estrous cycles are not controlled for, females show less variability than males, and this advantage can be further capitalized upon by inclusion of known temporal patterns to control for previously unknown but structured sources of variance.

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