Meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, can distinguish more over-marks from fewer over-marks


Is it possible that voles have a sense of number? To address this question, we determined whether voles discriminate between two different scent-marking individuals and identify the individual whose scent marks was on top more often than the other individual. We tested whether voles show a preference for the individual whose scent marks was on top most often. If so, the simplest explanation was that voles can make a relative size judgement-such as distinguishing an area containing more of one individual's over-marks as compared to less of another individual's over-marks. We found that voles respond preferentially to the donor that provided a greater number of over-marks as compared to the donor that provided a lesser number of over-marks. Thus, we concluded that voles might display the capacity for relative numerousness. Interestingly, female voles were better able than male voles to distinguish between small differences in the relative number of over-marks by the two scent donors. © Springer-Verlag 2005.

Publication Title

Animal Cognition