Persistence of the Attractiveness of Two Sex-specific Scents in Meadow Voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus

Authors


Department of Biology, Division of Ecology & Organismal Biology, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152, USA.

Abstract

The function of an odour may be reflected in its fade-out time in the environment. In this study, we investigated fade-out times of two specific odours, the anogenital area scent and that of the posterolateral region. These two odours support opposite-sex preferences in male and female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, but convey nonidentical information to conspecifics during the breeding season. The first experiment tested whether meadow voles respond preferentially to scents that were aged for 15 min (fresh) to 30 d. Males preferred female anogenital area scent to male anogenital area scent if both scents were ≤ 10 d old. By comparison, females preferred male anogenital area scent to female anogenital area scent if the scents were ≤ 25 d old. However, male and female voles preferred the posterolateral scent of males to that of females if the scents were ≤ 1 d old. Thus, fade-out times for these two scents differ for males and females, suggesting different functions. In the second experiment, male and female voles preferred fresh anogenital area scent and fresh posterolateral region scent compared with those same scents that were older. This result suggests that older scents may have lost information over time about the sex of the donor. Overall, data from both experiments indicate that voles may use specific scents for communication in different social contexts.

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