Don’t listen to mom: No maternal influence on consistent nest and latrine site choice by their offspring in meadow voles


Where does an animal build a nest? At a large scale, habitat preference can be informed by ‘natal habitat preference induction’, where an animal’s early environment impacts what habitat it finds suitable later in life. Other preferences may be present within a chosen habitat. We tracked the location angle of nests and latrines within the home cages of captive meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus. Nests and latrines were separated from each other by an angle of approximately 180°, perhaps to reduce disease transmission. Meadow voles’ nest and latrine site choices were individually consistent across time. Only nest site choices were consistent between siblings, as assessed by a random effect coefficient, and these choices were repeatable. However, nest site choices at maturity were independent of their mother’s nest choice. We posit that the nest and latrine site choice is a socially learned preference developed through the consensus of siblings after weaning.

Publication Title