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Abstract

In species where conspecifics compete for resources such as territories, remembering where a neighbor was previously encountered and the outcome of that interaction may give individuals advantages over nearby conspecifics. We used a two-phase experiment to test the hypothesis that female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, who during the breeding season are territorial and agonistic toward one another, can use details of an encounter with another female in one location to later navigate nearby areas. During the encounter phase, pairs of females interacted for two minutes in one isolated section of a Y-maze; control females were placed in alone. Females were scored as either winners or losers. Winners displayed twice as many agonistic acts against their opponent. The test phase took place after a retention interval of one hour, 1 d, or 1 wk. Single females were returned to a clean and empty Y-maze and allowed to explore the entire apparatus for 15 min. We recorded the amount of time spent in each section of the maze. After retention intervals of one hour and 7 d winners, losers, and controls spent similar amounts of time in each section. However, after 24 h, winners spent more time in the encounter section; losers and control females spent similar amounts of time in each section. The results suggest that meadow voles' memory of the details of a single encounter is influenced by the emotional valence attached to that event. The duration of memory may be associated with the establishment of territories by female meadow voles.