Do pine voles (Microtus pinetorum) use numerous types of olfactory cues to discriminate gender?


Olfactory cues can contain information for discrimination of gender that can affect subsequent social interactions. Social rodents are hypothesized to use more olfactory cues than nonsocial rodents to distinguish males from females. The generality of this hypothesis was tested using the pine vole (Microtus pinetorum), a social vole. We examined nine possible sources of odors. A slide containing an odor from a male and a female was presented to each test subject for 3 min. We recorded the amount of time each test subject spent investigating each odor. Females spent significantly more time investigating male urine and male anogenital odors; however, they did not use any other odor sources to discriminate gender. In contrast, mates did not use any odor sources to discriminate gender. Our results do not support the hypothesis that all social rodents use numerous odor sources to discriminate gender. Instead, our results are consistent with the alternative hypothesis that use of odor sources to convey information about gender may differ in rodents that live in different microhabitats.

Publication Title

Journal of Chemical Ecology