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Is Mating Alone Enough to Inhibit Infanticide in Male Bank Voles?


Hannu Ylönen, Konnevesi Research Station, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, P.O.Box 35, FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä, Finland.


Infanticide, the killing of conspecific young, is commonly recognized as an adaptive behavioural strategy enhancing the fitness of the perpetrator. Infanticide is supposed to be inhibited in several male rodent species after mating with a time lag to the time when perpetrators own offspring would be born. This is because males with no parental care do not recognize their own offspring. It has been suggested that copulation alone is enough to inhibit infanticidal behaviour in male rodents. Infanticidal behaviour occurs in more than 50% of male bank voles (Myodes glareolus), and offspring loss because of infanticide may have a great effect on breeding success and population recruitment. In a laboratory experiment, we studied whether infanticidal male bank voles after successful mating stop the killing of pups. Infanticidal males were paired with a female until successful copulation. After the young were born, the males’ infanticidal behaviour was studied from the time of expected birth of own pups until their post-weaning age. We predicted that mated infanticidal males are inhibited from committing infanticide especially during the time period when pups are less than 10 d old. Against our prediction, 67% of the infanticidal males continued the killing of pups in the age of 3 d. Infanticidal behaviour remained stable, and half of the males were infanticidal still at the age of weaning of pups. Our results are contradictory to previous studies, as we observed no inhibition of infanticide during early life of pups nor increase in infanticide again when their own offspring would have reached the ‘safe’ age and size after weaning. We suggest that mating alone is not sufficient to inhibit infanticide. Thus, we suggest that other cues of the female with whom the male mated with or on her territory are needed for inhibition to occur.