Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Parents suppress reproduction and stimulate dispersal in opposite-sex juvenile white-footed mice


JUVENILE dispersal is sex-biased in many mammals and birds: one sex often disperses more often or farther than the other. Two hypotheses are generally presented for sex-biased dispersal. The first holds that juvenile dispersal reduces reproductive and/or resource competition between parents and same-sexed offspring1–5. If so, presence of a parent on the natal home range should both promote dispersal of same-sex offspring and suppress reproduction of those that remain. The second is that juvenile dispersal reduces matings between parents and offspring6–10, thus decreasing the likelihood of inbreeding depression11–13. If so, presence of a parent should favour dispersal and reproductive suppression of offspring of the opposite sex. Here I present evidence that juvenile dispersal in white-footed mice, Peromyscus leucopus, is due to inbreeding avoidance. When population density was high, experimental removal of one parent delayed dispersal of opposite-sexed offspring and only the presence of the parents of opposite sex suppressed juvenile reproduction.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. Anderson, P. K. Dispersal in Rodents: A Resident Fitness Hypothesis (Allen, Kansas, 1989).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. Dobson, F. S. Anim. Behav. 30, 1183–1192 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Waser, P. M. Ecology 66, 1170–1175 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Moore, J. & Ali, R. Anim. Behav. 32, 94–112 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Liberg, P. & von Schantz, T. Am. Nat. 126, 129–135 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Wolff, J. O. et al. Anim. Behav. 36, 456–465 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Clutton-Brock, T. H. Nature 337, 70–72 (1989).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Greenwood, P. J. Anim. Behav. 28, 1140–1162 (1980).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Pusey, A. Trends Ecol. Evol. 2, 295–299 (1987).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Cockburn, A. et al. Anim. Behav. 33, 908–915 (1985).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ralls, K. et al. in Conservation Biology (ed. Soule, M. E.) 35–56 (Sinauer, Sunderland, Massachusetts, 1986).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Haigh, G. J. Mammal. 64, 48–54 (1983).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Keane, B. Anim. Behav. 39, 264–273 (1990).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Wolff, J. O. Can. J. Zool. 63, 1548–1555 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Wolff, J. O. Can. J. Zool. 63, 2657–2662 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Wolff, J. O. Va, J. Sci. 37, 209–220 (1986).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Wolff, J. O. & Cicirello, D. M. Behavl Ecol. 2, 38–45 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Wolff, J. O. et al. Behavl Ecol. Sociobiol. 12, 237–242 (1983).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Wolff, J. O. in Advances in the Study of Peromyscus (Rodentia) (eds Kirkland, G. L. Jr & Layne, J. N.) 271–291 (Texas Technical University Press, Lubbock, Texas, 1989).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Hestbeck, J. B. Oikos 39, 157–163 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Packer, C. Anim. Behav. 33, 676–678 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Harvey, P. H. & Ralls, K. Nature 320, 675–676 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Marks, J. S. & Redmond, R. L. Am. Nat. 129, 158–164 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hoagland, J. L. Science 215, 1639–1641 (1979).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  25. Koenig, W. D. & Pitelka, F. A. Science 206, 1103–1105 (1979).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Holzenbein, S. & Marchinton, R. L. J. Wildl. Magmt 56, 147–153 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. McCravy, K. W. & Rose, R. K. J. Mammal. 73, 151–159 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wolff, J. Parents suppress reproduction and stimulate dispersal in opposite-sex juvenile white-footed mice. Nature 359, 409–410 (1992).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing