Do male meadow voles () always prefer and signal to 'popular' females? The role of social information context


For males, the behaviour of rival conspecifics can provide vital information about finding reproductively available females, and which have high-quality phenotypes. While valuable, this information represents sperm competition risk and even the potential for rejection by females. Thus, males should show flexibility in signalling behaviours towards females based on social information acquired with emphasis on the context of that information. We examined male meadow vole scent-marking behaviours and preferences for females based on previously obtained social information across different contexts. Social information context resulted in increased scent marking depending on the social odour pairing. Males scent marked more near a female whose odour had associated with three older rivals than one younger rival. But males marked equally toward a female whose odour had associated with three younger rivals and a female whose odour had associated with one older rival. This demonstrates that social odours are not of all equal value and that males can distinguish differences. Males then use these differences to tailor their signalling towards potentially high-quality phenotype females thereby maximizing their reproductive opportunities.

Publication Title

Biology letters