Olfactory Experience Affects the Response of Meadow Voles to the Opposite-Sex Scent Donor of Mixed-Sex Over-Marks

Authors


Michael H. Ferkin, Department of Biology, The University of Memphis, Ellington Hall, Memphis, TN 38152, USA. E-mail: mhferkin@memphis.edu

Abstract

Scent marking and over-marking are important forms of communication between the sexes for many terrestrial mammals. Over the course of three experiments, we determined whether the amount of time individuals investigate the scent marks of opposite-sex conspecifics is affected by 4 d of olfactory experience with those conspecifics. In Experiment 1, female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, spent more time investigating the scent mark of the novel male conspecific than that of the familiar male donor, whereas male voles spent similar amounts of time investigating the scent mark of the familiar female and a novel female conspecific. In Experiment 2, voles were exposed to a mixed-sex over-mark in which subjects did not have 4 d of olfactory experience with either the top-scent donor or the bottom-scent donor. During the test phase, male and female voles spent more time investigating the scent mark of the opposite-sex conspecific that provided the top-scent mark than that of a novel, opposite-sex conspecific. Male and female voles spent similar amounts of time investigating the scent mark of the bottom-scent donor and that of a novel opposite-sex conspecific. In Experiment 3, voles were exposed to a mixed-sex over-mark that contained the scent mark of an opposite-sex conspecific with which they had 4 d of olfactory experience. During the test phase, male voles spent more time investigating the mark of the familiar, top-scent female than the scent mark of a novel female donor but spent similar amounts of time investigating the mark of the familiar, bottom-scent female and that of a novel female donor. In contrast, female voles spent more time investigating the mark of a novel male donor than that of either the familiar, top-scent male or that of the familiar, bottom-scent male. The sex differences in the responses of voles to scent marks and mixed-sex over-marks are discussed in relation to the natural history and non-monogamous mating system of meadow voles.

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