Self-grooming and sibling recognition in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, and prairie voles, M. Ochrogaster
Self-grooming in response to the odours of an opposite-sex conspecific may reflect sexual motivation on the part of the actor. We tested the hypothesis that meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, and prairie voles, M. ochrogaster, both self-groom at different rates when exposed to the odours of their siblings as compared to those of nonsiblings. This prediction was studied under the context of social memory for siblings and the effects of isolation on memory for siblings. The hypothesis explains the self-grooming responses of meadow voles isolated from their siblings for 10 days and of prairie voles isolated from their siblings for 20 days. However, 20 days of isolation for male and female meadow voles, and 30 days of isolation for male prairie voles were sufficient to induce these animals to self-groom at a similar rate to both sibling and nonsibling odours, suggesting that after isolation these animals no longer recognized their opposite-sex siblings. Female prairie voles isolated for 30 days self-groomed more in response to the odours of male nonsiblings than to those of male siblings, suggesting that female prairie voles still recognize their male siblings after isolation. This study is the first to provide empirical evidence that, in the context of sibling recognition, self-grooming behaviour is directed at unfamiliar opposite-sex conspecifics, and that the communicative function of self-grooming (sexual motivation) is associated with social memory for siblings. Differences in the self-grooming behaviour of meadow voles and prairie voles may be associated with several aspects of their life history characteristics. © 2002 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
Paz-Y-Miño C, G., Leonard, S., Ferkin, M., & Trimble, J. (2002). Self-grooming and sibling recognition in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, and prairie voles, M. Ochrogaster. Animal Behaviour, 63 (2), 331-338. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.2001.1893