Doctor of Philosophy
Michael H. Ferkin
Michael L. Kennedy
Emerson K. Bowers
Animals must be able to collect and utilize information from their environment, such as olfactory cues, to make decisions that impact their fitness. Meadow voles make excellent experimental subjects for studying the functional aspects of olfactory communication. While several body sources of meadow voles were previously observed to communicate the vole’s sex, I aimed to determine whether each source also communicates information distinct from other sources. This was accomplished by utilizing a habituation-test method. I found that scent marks from three body sources of a female meadow vole communicated information that was both redundant and distinct from one another. In response to a signal that conveys a predation threat, prey animals may alter their behavior to avoid other conspecifics, increase their association with conspecifics, or specifically increase their association with opposite-sex conspecifics to increase their fitness. However, a predation threat can also reduce the foraging efforts of prey animals, so a decrease in association between opposite-sex conspecifics, or mating behavior, may be mediated by the impact of a predation threat on foraging behavior. I investigated how the social preference of meadow voles was altered by an olfactory predation threat, food deprivation, or simultaneous exposure to both stressors. Meadow voles exposed to one or both stressors were allowed to investigate a four-armed radial maze where they could investigate four different types of social cues. The social preference of voles was not altered, but meadow voles did investigate the experimental apparatus more quickly when exposed to stressors. Therefore, the results of food deprivation and the threat of predation on meadow vole social preference was inconclusive and requires further investigation. A predation threat can also alter preys’ use of environmental variables, and different types of predator cues can impose varying levels of risk. Thus, meadow voles were again tested in a radial maze where they could choose between four environmental variables while satiated or food-deprived and exposed to visual, auditory, or both types of cues from an aerial predator. Results suggest that meadow voles utilize environmental variables in a way that improves their fitness according to the availability of resources and their natural history.
Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.
Garris, Sarah Stacey, "Olfactory communication among conspecifics and alteration of habitat and social preference due to food deprivation and the threat of predation in meadow voles" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3263.