Characterization of social behavior in the spiny mouse, Acomys cahirinus

Brandon A. Fricker, Ashley W. Seifert, Aubrey M. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


While there are many species that are commonly used for the study of mammalian social behavior, there remains a need for lab-suitable organisms that are appropriate for examining sociality specifically in non-reproductive contexts (i.e., social behavior not in the context of mating or parenting). The spiny mouse, Acomys cahirinus, is a cooperatively breeding rodent that lives in large groups and is a species that holds great potential for studying a wide range of social behaviors in reproductive and non-reproductive contexts. Here, we characterize the basic social behaviors in male and female A. cahirinus to obtain a foundation for future study. We tested adult A. cahirinus in social approach, social preference, social interaction, social recognition, and group size preference paradigms. Regardless of sex, novelty, or familiarity, we found that both males and females rapidly approach conspecifics demonstrating high social boldness. Additionally, both sexes are significantly more prosocial than aggressive when freely interacting with conspecifics. However, we observed effects of sex on social preferences, such that males exhibit a preference to affiliate with same-sex conspecifics, whereas females exhibit a preference for affiliating with opposite-sex conspecifics. We discuss how this preference may relate to the cooperative breeding system of spiny mice. Lastly, both sexes show a robust preference for affiliating with large over small groups, indicating they may be an ideal species for the study of mammalian gregariousness. These data lay a basic foundation for future studies that seek to assess complex group dynamics and the mechanisms underlying reproductive and non-reproductive social behaviors in a highly social mammal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-40
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley-VCH GmbH


  • affiliation
  • behavior
  • gregariousness
  • non-reproductive sociality
  • prosocial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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