Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2014

Degree Type



Chemistry and Biochemistry

Director of Thesis

Sandra Kelly

First Reader

Michael Felder


Paternal behavior is a largely understudied and poorly understood topic, especially in mammalian species. Many current mammalian models for paternal behavior use a comparative approach, taking advantage of natural differences in behavior between closely related species. This study compared paternal behavior in two rodent species, namely Peromyscus maniculatus (BW) and Peromyscus polionotus (PO). PO rodents have been shown to be monogamous, but there have been no studies of their paternal behavior at this time. 10 PO males and 12 BW males were filmed in their home cage for a 10 minute period following initial disturbance of their nest and removal of the female from the cage in order to compare their paternal interactions and care of the pups following the disturbance. PO males spent significantly more time grooming the pups than the BW males. PO males also spent significantly less time jumping and burrowing during the testing period than the BW males. Overall, time spent exhibiting pup-directed behavior was significantly higher in PO males. Conversely, BW males spent significantly more time exhibiting non-pup-directed behavior. These results support the hypothesis that PO males exhibit more paternal behavior compared to the BW males. However, further study would be required in order to determine if PO males meet the standards of currently accepted paternal models, like Peromyscus californicus or Microtus ochrogaster, and if they can therefore be considered to be a “truly paternal” species.


© 2014, Taylor Wapshott