Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Female partner preferences enhance offspring ability to survive an infection

Shirley Raveh12*, Sanja Sutalo1, Kerstin E Thonhauser1, Michaela Thoß1, Attila Hettyey13, Friederike Winkelser1 and Dustin J Penn1

Author Affiliations

1 Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Savoyenstr. 1a, 1160 Vienna, Austria

2 Present address: Department of Environmental Sciences Zoology and Evolution, University of Basel, Vesalgasse 1, 4051 Basel, Switzerland

3 Present address: “Lendület” Evolutionary Ecology Research Group, Plant Protection Institute, Centre for Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Herman Ottó út 15, 1022 Budapest, Hungary

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-14

Published: 23 January 2014



It is often suggested that mate choice enhances offspring immune resistance to infectious diseases. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a study with wild-derived house mice (Mus musculus musculus) in which females were experimentally mated either with their preferred or non-preferred male, and their offspring were infected with a mouse pathogen, Salmonella enterica (serovar Typhimurium).


We found that offspring sired by preferred males were significantly more likely to survive the experimental infection compared to those sired by non-preferred males. We found no significant differences in the pathogen clearance or infection dynamics between the infected mice, suggesting that offspring from preferred males were better able to cope with infection and had improved tolerance rather than immune resistance.


Our results provide the first direct experimental evidence within a single study that partner preferences enhance offspring resistance to infectious diseases.

Partner preference; Sexual selection; Mus musculus musculus; Salmonella; Pathogen clearance; Disease resistance; Pathogen-mediated sexual selection; Tolerance