Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Michael Ferkin

Committee Member

Michael Kennedy

Committee Member

Keith Bowers

Committee Member

Stan Franlin


The meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) is a small herbivorous rodent inhabiting grassy fields throughout the Northern United States and Canada. Meadow voles are promiscuous, with males and females taking multiple mates during a single breeding season. Female meadow voles are territorial while males occupy large home ranges that encompass the territories of multiple females. My research focused on how changes in diet or food availability influenced the sexual and exploratory behaviors of meadow voles. In Chapters 1 and 2, I assessed the influence of phytoestrogens on the sexual behavior of meadow voles. Phytoestrogens are nonsteroidal compounds produced by plants that can mimic or antagonize the effects of some steroid hormones. They are capable of binding to estrogen receptors and may induce estrogenic or antiestrogenic action. In Chapter 2, I supported the hypothesis that meadow voles alter their sexual behavior following a reduction in dietary phytoestrogen intake. Specifically, meadow voles fed a low phytoestrogen diet reduce their proceptive behaviors compared to voles fed a moderate phytoestrogen diet. In Chapters 3 to 5, I assessed the influence of food deprivation on the exploratory behaviors of meadow voles in an unfamiliar arena. Exploratory behavior is a broad term that refers to investigative behaviors which allow an animal to gather information about unfamiliar environments, novel objects, or novel parts of a familiar environment. In Chapter 3, we found that male meadow voles are more exploratory in an unfamiliar arena than females following food deprivation. In Chapter 4, I tested the hypotheses that food-deprived and sated, male and female meadow voles would differ in their exploration of an unfamiliar arena that contains novel objects, bedding, or food resources of interest. We found that females choose to investigate food whereas males show both increased investigation of food and continued exploration of the arena. Meadow voles were also observed to self-groom within the unfamiliar arena. Self-grooming behavior is often observed when an animal is exposed to novelty and may be an important feature of exploratory behavior. In Chapter 5, we found that self-grooming is a communicative behavior likely used to advertise an individuals presence to nearby conspecifics.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest