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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Social Influences on the Food Preferences of House Mice ( Mus Musculus )

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In a series of studies undertaken to determine the conditions under which naive house mice (observers) develop preferences for foods eaten by recently-fed conspecifics (demonstrators), we found that observer mice exhibited enhanced preference for a food following interaction with either a healthy or an ill recently-fed demonstrator that had eaten that food. We also found that house mice developed an enhanced preference for a food after exposure to an anesthetized conspecific demonstrator powdered with that food, but not after exposure to a cotton-batting, conspecific-sized surrogate powdered with the same food. Results of other studies have indicated that, for both rats and mice, the presence in a food of carbon disulfide (a substance found on the breath of rats) increases preference for a carbon-disulfide-contaminated food. taken together, the parallels between Norway rats and house mice in social learning processes suggest homologous rather than analogous systems of communication about distant foods in these two murid rodents.

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