Patterns of sexually distinct scents in Microtus spp.


The sources of sexually discriminable scent were identified for montane voles, Microtus montanus, and compared with known sources in other species of voles. I tested two different hypotheses. The data support the hypothesis that each vole species has a unique number and pattern of sources of sexually distinct scent. The location, pattern, and number of these sources of scent on the integument may allow individuals to convey particular types of information to conspecifics. The data also support the hypothesis that the greater the number of sources of scent for signaling opposite-sex conspecifics, the greater the number of encounters that individuals within that species have with opposite-sex conspecifics. The montane vole, a semisocial species, has six sources of scent, which is intermediate between the numbers found in the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), an asocial species, and the prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster), a social species. The results suggest that the number, pattern, and locations of sexually distinct scents are positively associated with the frequency with which individuals encounter the scent marks of neighboring conspecifics.

Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Zoology