Social Dominance among Male Meadow Voles is Inversely Related to Reproductive Success


Mark D. Spritzer, Department of Psychology, The University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada. E-mail:


Intrasexual selection can occur through direct aggressive interactions between males for access to females. We tested the relationship between social dominance and male reproductive success among meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus. Dominance ranks of wild-caught males were determined using neutral arena trials, with the winner of two of three trials considered dominant. These males were then released into field enclosures and allowed to visit females housed in nestboxes for 8 wk, and males’ home range sizes were determined using weekly grid trapping. Male reproductive success was determined using molecular paternity analysis (six microsatellite primers) for all pups born during the field experiment. Males with higher dominance ranks had larger home ranges. However, male dominance rank was not predictive of the number of total visits to females’ nestboxes or the number of visits to each male's most frequently visited nestbox. Males that made more visits to nestboxes sired more litters. Males that had higher dominance ranks sired fewer litters. These results suggest that there is a reproductive disadvantage to having higher dominance rank among male meadow voles.