Promiscuity in mice is associated with increased vaginal bacterial diversity.

Academic Article


  • Differences in the number of sexual partners (i.e., mating system) have the potential to exert a strong influence on the bacterial communities present in reproductive structures like the vagina. Because this structure serves as a conduit for gametes, bacteria present there may have a pronounced, direct effect on host reproductive success. As a first step towards the identification of the relationship between sexual behavior and potentially pathogenic bacterial communities inhabiting vital reproductive structures, as well as their potential effects on fitness, I sought to quantify differences in bacterial diversity in a promiscuous and monogamous mammal species. To accomplish this, I used two sympatric species of Peromyscus rodents--Peromyscus californicus and Peromyscus maniculatus that differ with regard to the number of sexual partners per individual to test the hypothesis that bacterial diversity should be greater in the promiscuous P. maniculatus relative to the monogamous P. californicus. As predicted, phylogenetically controlled and operational taxonomic unit-based indices of bacterial diversity indicated that diversity is greater in the promiscuous species. These results provide important new insights into the effects of mating system on bacterial diversity in free-living vertebrates, and may suggest a potential cost of promiscuity.
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • November 2011
  • Published In


  • Animals
  • Bacteria
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Biodiversity
  • Cytochromes b
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Peromyscus
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Vagina
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 951
  • End Page

  • 960
  • Volume

  • 98
  • Issue

  • 11