The response of rodents to scent marks: Four broad hypotheses


This article is part of a Special Issue "Chemosignals and Reproduction".Many terrestrial mammals must be able to distinguish between the myriad of scent marks they encounter in order for them to facilitate or deter direct interactions with their scent donors. I review studies that examine how rodents, mainly meadow voles (. Microtus pennsylvanicus), respond when they encounter the scent marks of conspecifics and heterospecifics, and how context, as well as the age and condition of senders and receivers, affect their responses. The review uses four broad hypotheses to discuss the response of rodents to scent marks. The four hypotheses are as follows: 1) Scent marks convey accurate information to the receiver about the sender's state and phenotype and genotype. 2) Scent marks are individually distinct. 3) The response of receivers to scent marks is flexible and would be modulated by the cognitive abilities of receivers. 4) Receivers respond to the information contained or conveyed by the scent mark in a manner that will increase their survival and fitness. The studies cited in this review show that scent marks signal accurate information about the sender's phenotype, genotype, and condition, which receivers use to distinguish among the scent marks of different conspecifics and heterospecifics, and by doing so, receivers tailor their response accordingly to increase their survival and fitness. Thus, the four broad hypotheses may serve as guide to increase our understanding of the response of receivers to scent marks and provide a conceptual framework for future research and the development of additional hypotheses.

Publication Title

Hormones and Behavior