Response of prairie voles, Microtus ochrogaster (Rodentia, Arvicolidae), to scent over-marks of two same-sex conspecifics: A test of the scent-masking hypothesis


Previous work shows that after investigating a same-sex over-mark, two nonmonogamous species, meadow voles and golden hamsters, preferred the odor of the top-scent donor to that of the bottom-scent donor, and behaved as the odor of the bottom-scent donor was not familiar. This finding supported the scent-masking hypothesis; one of three hypotheses suggested previously to account for how an animal responds to the overlapping scent marks of two same-sex conspecifics. The present experiments tested whether one of these hypotheses, either scent-masking, scent-bulletin-board, or scent-blending, predicts how a monogamous species, the prairie vole, responds to such over-marks. Our data show that none of the three hypotheses adequately describes the way in which prairie voles respond to conspecific over-marks. Although prairie voles preferred the top scent to the bottom scent, they behaved as if the latter scent was familiar and less important than a novel scent (a scent not part of the over-mark). Overall, the data suggest that the manner in which males and females respond to same-sex over-marks reflects the different tactics they may use to attract and compete with conspecifics in monogamous and nonmonogamous species.

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