Ovarian hormones influence odor cues emitted by female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus


During the spring-summer breeding season female meadow voles emit odors that are preferred by males, whereas in the autumn-winter season of reproductive quiescence females emit odors that are not preferred by males, but are attractive to females. The effects of daylength and ovarian hormones on salience of female odors were determined by assaying male responses to odors. Females housed in long and short photoperiods transmitted odors that elicited responses similar to those of spring and autumn female voles, respectively. The odor cues emitted by ovariectomized (OVX) females, irrespective of photoperiodic history, were similar to those generated by females during the nonbreeding season. In the absence of ovarian hormones, long daylengths were not sufficient to induce females to broadcast the spring odors preferred by males. Spring-type odor cues were, however, emitted by OVX voles housed in either photoperiod and treated with estradiol. Ovarian hormones appear necessary and sufficient to generate breeding season odor cues and sufficient to induce production of such cues during the nonbreeding season. We conclude that daylength affects odor cues emitted by females by altering ovarian hormone activity. © 1991.

Publication Title

Hormones and Behavior