SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

We conducted a laboratory experiment to examine whether dominance status affects the use of locations occupied (i.e. scent-marked) by same-sex conspecifics among wild-caught snow vole males (Chionomys nivalis). Given that the costs of invading scent-marked areas should partially depend on the intruder's competitive ability, we hypothesised that, once a dominance relationship has been established with the owner of marks, the use of these areas by males would vary differently between dominant and subordinate individuals. Before any previous experience with the owner, scented substrates and nests were highly attractive to all males, indicating a general preference for recently occupied areas. However, after relative social status was established through direct interaction the subsequent response of males was altered differently, subordinate individuals reducing the use of marked areas to a much greater extent than dominants. Competitive relationships between male C. nivalis were found to be influenced by differences in body weight, larger males tending to display a more dominant pattern of behaviour. Our results reveal that male C. nivalis may require some direct experience with potential opponents to modulate their response towards occupied locations. Additionally, we suggest that the ability of males to conditionally respond to social signals from particular competing conspecifics might be used to lower the costs of prospective agonistic interactions.