Pup ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are emitted from maternally separated pups and are thought to be a trigger for eliciting maternal behavior in mice. We investigated the effects of social experience and gonadectomy on the retrieving behavior of mice and their responses to pup USVs produced by a nanocrystalline silicon thermo-acoustic emitter. In each experiment, virgin, gonadectomized, sham-operated, sexually experienced, and parenting mice of both sexes were used, and the effects of these manipulations were compared in each sex. The retrieving behavior of both sexes increased with social experience or gonadectomy. In particular, mothers showed the highest retrieving activity among female groups, while castrated male mice showed the highest retrieving activity among male groups. All groups of female mice responded to pup USVs, with the responsiveness of sexually experienced female mice being the most enhanced. Unlike the females, virgin male mice did not respond to pup USVs, although socially experienced or castrated males showed this response; fathers exhibited the highest responsiveness. These results suggest that not only parenting experience, but also mating experience, may enhance retrieving activity and response to pup USVs in mice of both sexes. Nevertheless, the degree to which parenting experience contributed to the enhancement of both activities differed between the sexes. Furthermore, gonadectomy enhanced both activities in both sexes, although its effect was more prominent in males. Overall, our findings suggest that alteration in responsiveness of mice to pup USVs might be one of the changes in parental behavior caused by social experiences or gonadal hormones.
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