Mus (Mus) musculus
About the object
The house mouse is a well-researched rodent. As a successful synanthrope, the wild house mouse benefits from human activity and will often inhabit houses, barns and food stores. Pet or "laboratory" mice have been domesticated and artificially bred for use in clinical experiments or as food for other animals. There are now many diverse breeds of mouse suited to specific research questions. In some instances, it is possible to manipulate their genes depending on the scientific requirements. In this way, for example, various types of cancer or particular infections can be systematically induced in these mice in order to test the efficacy of pharmaceutical interventions. In Germany in 2017, approximately 1.37 million mice were killed specifically as part of animal experimentation.
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The social behaviour of house mice is particularly interesting. As a rule they form familial populations of up to 50 animals. As with all social animals, the house mouse has developed its own sophisticated form of communication. Communal living is predominantly ordered according to family-specific smells, which are transmitted via urine and sweat. From whom the smell comes, where and when it was emitted, these all play a significant role in determining the reproductive cycle. For example, a juvenile female will attain sexual maturity quicker if an unfamiliar male marks a given territory with his scent. Whereas if numerous females in the group are already simultaneously pregnant or lactating, the opposite occurs; she attains sexual maturity later. Male mice organise themselves hierarchically in a territory according to odour. This can regulate conflicts, either preventing or provoking them. The specific odour palette of a family or mice is hereditary. In this way, mice can identify fellow family members without ever having seen or smelt each other. The females will choose to mate with males whose smell strongly differs from their own in order to avoid inbreeding.