The effect of familiarity on social interactions in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus: a laboratory and field study


The role of familiarity in affecting the outcome of social interactions among meadow voles was investigated in both a laboratory and a field experiment. In the laboratory, captive meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, were exposed to a conspecific's odour. The voles were then placed into two groups: familiar and unfamiliar. Familiar voles were individuals who underwent staged dyadic encounters with the conspecific to whose odours they had been exposed. Unfamiliar voles were individuals who underwent paired encounters with conspecifics to whose odours they had not been exposed. In the field experiment, familiar voles were neighbours that were trapped within each other's home ranges over two consecutive bi-weekly trapping sessions. Unfamiliar voles were individuals that were trapped on different trapping grids. The results of the laboratory and field studies were similar. Encounters between familiar females resulted in less agonistic behaviour and more amicable acts than encounters between unfamiliar females. In contrast, encounters between familiar males resulted in more agonistic behaviour than encounters between unfamiliar males. Familiarity did not affect the outcome of male-female interactions. These results are discussed in the framework of the social system of the meadow vole. © 1988.

Publication Title

Animal Behaviour