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Abstract

Models of age-related effects on behavior predict that among short-lived species younger adults are more attractive and attracted to opposite-sex conspecifics than are older adults, whereas the converse is predicted for long-lived species. Although most studies of age-related effects on behavior support these predictions, they are not supported by many studies of scent marking, a behavior used in mate attraction. Over-marking, a form of scent marking, is a tactic used by many terrestrial mammals to convey information about themselves to opposite-sex conspecifics. The present study tested the hypothesis that the age of meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus; a microtine rodent, affects their over- and scent-marking behaviors when they encounter the marks of opposite-sex conspecifics. Sex differences existed in the over-marking behavior of adult voles among the three different age groups that were tested. Male voles that were 5–7 and 10–12 mo olds over-marked a higher proportion of the marks of females than did 2–3 mo old male voles. Female voles that were 2–3, 5–7, and 10–12 mo old over-marked a similar number of marks deposited by male voles. Overall, the data were not consistent with models predicting the behavior of short-lived animals such as rodents when they encounter the opposite sex. The differences in over-marking displayed by older and younger adult male voles may be associated with life history tradeoffs, the likelihood that they will encounter sexually receptive females, and being selected as mates.