Avoidance of Interspecific Mating in Female Syrian Hamsters is Stronger Toward Familiar Than Toward Unfamiliar Heterospecific Males

Document Type


Publication Title

Learning and Behavior

Publication Date



Adult Syrian hamster females (Mesocricetus auratus) learn to discriminate against familiar heterospecific males (Turkish hamster, M. brandti). We investigated whether females learn to avoid any heterospecific male after exposure to just one heterospecific male. We predicted that, after being exposed to one heterospecific male, a female would avoid mating not only with that familiar male but also with any unfamiliar heterospecific male. We exposed females to a heterospecific male across a wire-mesh barrier for 8 days and then paired the female with (a) that same heterospecific male or (b) an unfamiliar heterospecific male. Females exhibited lordosis faster and for a longer duration toward the unfamiliar than toward the familiar heterospecific male. However, females were similarly aggressive toward familiar and unfamiliar heterospecific males. Perhaps exposure to stimuli from several heterospecific males (a likely scenario in the wild) would result in females behaving similarly toward familiar and unfamiliar heterospecific males.

Funding Source

This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant NIMH 5 R01 MHO58001-08 to R.E.J.


This article was originally published as delBarco-Trillo, J. and Johnston, R.E. (2011) Avoidance of interspecific mating in female Syrian hamsters is stronger toward familiar than toward unfamiliar heterospecific males. Learning & Behavior. 39: 239-244. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-011-0024-8.