Influence of gonadal hormones on odours emitted by male meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus)


Free-living male meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) emit odours that are attractive to females at the beginning, but not at the end, of the breeding season. The effect of gonadal hormones on female-attractant cues was examined in males born and reared in long (14h light day-1) and short (10h light day-1) photoperiods that simulate daylengths in the breeding and nonbreeding seasons, respectively. Gonadectomy affected the attractant properties of odours emitted by long photoperiod, but not short photoperiod, males. Long photoperiod females preferred odours of intact rather than those of gonadectomized long photoperiod males, and odours of gonadectomized long photoperiod males rather than those of intact short photoperiod males. Females did not show a preference between the odours of intact and castrated short photoperiod males. Gonadal hormone replacement in males affected female responses to the odours emitted by long photoperiod, but not short photoperiod, gonadectomized males. Long photoperiod females did not display a preference between odours of intact long photoperiod males and gonadectomized long photoperiod males treated with testosterone or oestradiol. We conclude that in spring and summer gonadal hormones increase attractiveness of male odours; this effect may require aromatization of testosterone to oestradiol. Substrates that control attractiveness of odour cues in male voles appear to be unresponsive to androgens during the nonbreeding season.

Publication Title

Journal of Reproduction and Fertility