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Abstract

I investigated alternative hypotheses concerning the functions of pre-implantation male-induced pregnancy disruption in meadow voles. Disruptions may be viewed as: 1. Postcopulatory male competition; 2. A mechanism for postcopulatory mate choice by females; and 3. A means of benefitting females by terminating investment in litters that may be harmed by new males. Female voles were paired with a second male 3 d after mating with their first mate. Behavioural interactions between the female and each male were compared for females that disrupted or retained the pregnancy sired by the first male. Whether they were the females' first or second mates, males siring litters showed similar high levels of approach and moderately high aggression, behaviour that differed from the females' other mates. Disrupted females huddled sooner with their second mates than females that retained their original pregnancies, and females tended to approach males that approached them. These results suggest that females influence whether a disruption occurs by the amount of contact they initiate with the second male, and thus pregnancy disruption may facilitate postcopulatory mate choice by females. This pre-implantation disruption did not enhance female reproductive success: pup survival was the same whether or not a disruption occurred, and males living with pups they had sired (after a disruption) spent as much time with them as males with unrelated pups (females did not disrupt).