Odor preference and social behavior in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus
Ferkin, Michael H.
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Seasonal differences in odor preference and social behavior existed among adult meadow voles. During the breeding season, a female preferred its own odor and the odor of males to the odor of another females. Males preferred the odor of females to the odor of other males. Paired encounters between breeding females were more agonistic than encounters between males or encounters between males and females. During the nonbreeding season, a female preferred the the odor of another female to the odor of males. Males did not display an odor preference for any conspecifics. Paired encounters between males were more agonistic than encounters between males and females or encounters between females. Encounters between nonbreeding females contained few agonistic acts. Seasonal differences also existed in the interactions between adults and juveniles. During the early breeding season, adult males were more agonistic than adult females toward juvenile males. During the late breeding season, adult females were more agonistic than adult males toward juvenile males. Encounters between an adult female and a juvenile female in the late breeding season contained few agonistic acts, indicating that overwintering groups are female-biased, and contain juvenile females. Juveniles did not display a shift in odor preferences. They preferred the odor of opposite-sex adults to the odor of same-sex adults, regardless of season. Familiarity, through association during rearing, reduced agonistic behavior between parents and young, and between siblings. Paired encounters between close-kin that were not familiar were agonistic, and similar to encounters between unfamiliar, and unrelated conspecifics. Conspecifics were more agonistic toward closely related males than females. Voles also preferred the odor of a familiar nestmate, independently of genetic relatedness. Familiarity decreased the number of agonistic behaviors between adult females, but increased the number of agonistic behaviors between adult males. Familiarity had no effect on the number of agonistic behaviors between a male and a female.
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