Is Self-Grooming by Male Prairie Voles a Predictor of Mate Choice?


Jerry O. Wolff Department of Biology, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152 USA. E-mail:


Self-grooming by mammals is a form of scent dissemination in which individuals anoint themselves with salivary, anogenital, and other body odours. Self-grooming has been proposed to be a sexually selected trait favoured in reproductive competition and sexual attraction. We tested the hypothesis that females would show a mating preference for males that self-groomed more than a reproductive competitor that groomed less. In mate-choice experiments in which females had a choice of two tethered males, non pair-bonded females did not choose males based on their frequency of self-grooming. In a second experiment in which pair-bonded females in postpartum oestrus had access to their current mate and two strange males, strange males groomed significantly more than pair-bonded mates, yet attained the fewest copulations. Non pair-bonded females and pair-bonded males and females groomed significantly less often than did non pair-bonded males. Self-grooming behaviour was consistent with the sexual attraction hypothesis, but the frequency of self-grooming did not increase a male's mating success. We conclude that the frequency and time spent self grooming are not good predictors of mating success.