Meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, use multiple sources of scent for sex recognition


Although many sources of sexually specific chemical signals have been identified, few attempts have been made to identify all the sources of sex-specific information in any species or to determine whether the various cues that provide this information have the same communicative functions. Sources of sex-specific odour information were identified using a preference task in meadow voles. An examination was made of the amount of time that long-photoperiod male and female voles investigated different scents from opposite- and same-sex conspecifics. The data indicate that there was a highly localized pattern of sexual information on the bodies of meadow voles. Three scents were preferentially investigated by opposite-sex subjects: both male and female voles investigated scents from urine, faeces and the anogenital area of the opposite sex more than those of the same sex. Two additional scents resulted in sexual preferences, but not in a symmetrical fashion. Males investigated scents from the mouth of females over the mouth scent of males, but females showed no preference. Both males and females investigated scent from the posterolateral region of males more than those of females. Mouth and posterolateral area may provide different information and/or have different functions compared to the sex-specific scents from urine, faeces and the anogenital area. © 1995.

Publication Title

Animal Behaviour