Seasonal differences in self-grooming in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus


We determined whether seasonal differences exist in the amount of time meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, self-groom when they encounter the scents of conspecifics. To do so, we used voles that were born and reared under long photoperiod (LP) and short photoperiod (SP). LP voles represent those found in free-living populations during the spring and summer breeding season, whereas SP voles characterize those found in free-living populations during the fall and winter nonbreeding season. Experiment 1 showed that LP male and female voles self-groomed more in response to odors of LP opposite-sex conspecifics as compared to those of other LP and SP conspecifics, suggesting that they may be self-grooming to signal sexual interest or excitement to potential mates. Experiment 2 demonstrated that SP males self-groomed more in response to scents of LP female voles and those of SP males as compared to scents of LP males and SP females, whereas SP females spent similar amounts of time self-grooming in response to scents of LP males, LP females, SP females, and SP males. These seasonal differences in self-grooming may reflect differences in the messages produced by groomers when they broadcast their odors as well as differences in the meaning of such odors to opposite-sex conspecifics. Alternatively, these data may be associated with seasonal differences in sexual motivation of the groomers when exposed to scents of particular conspecifics. © Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2005.

Publication Title

Acta Ethologica