Odour-genes covariance and differential investigation of individual odours in the Mus species complex

Giora Heth, Josephine Todrank, Nicolas Busquet, Claude Baudoin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research using habituation techniques has demonstrated that greater genetic similarity between two individuals is associated with more similarity in the qualities of their individual odours ('odour-genes covariance'). We assessed odour similarities across species in two pairs of genetically close species within the Mus species complex (M. musculus and M. domesticus; M. spicilegus and M. macedonicus). Subjects treated odours within each species pair as similar compared with an odour from the other species pair. Subjects also treated odours of M. spicilegus males from the same population as similar compared with the odour of M. spicilegus males from a different population. This confirms odour-genes covariance across species and within populations and also supports previous findings that odour similarities are more salient than specific odour markers. When adult males were presented with odours of females from two different heterospecific species, subjects spent more time investigating the odour from his own species pair than the other species pair, indicating greater interest in the odour of the closer heterospecific and demonstrating that odour-genes covariance is reflected in behavioural responses to odours. Implications of odour-genes covariance as a basis for identifying degrees of genetic relatedness of unfamiliar individuals through similarities in individual odours are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Chemical communication
  • Odour preferences
  • Species discrimination
  • Species recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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