Self-grooming as a sexually dimorphic communicative behaviour in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus


Self-grooming may provide a means for broadcasting scent to conspecifics. Four experiments investigated this hypothesis in meadow voles. In the first experiment, male voles but not female voles groomed more in response to scent from an opposite-sex conspecific than a same-sex conspecific. In the second experiment, male voles groomed more in response to ovariectomized females receiving replacement oestradiol than to ovariectomized females receiving no oestradiol replacement. Self-grooming by female voles did not vary with the reproductive state of male scent donors. In the third experiment, males showed no difference in grooming in response to odours of a short-photoperiod male versus a short-photoperiod female, again indicating that the grooming response of males depends on the reproductive state of scent donors. These three experiments all suggested a communicative function for scent-elicited grooming. In the final experiment, the responses of females to males that had engaged in self-grooming was examined. Females spent more time investigating scent collected from the anogenital area of a male that had recently self-groomed at a high rate than they did from a male that had groomed at a low rate. Thus self-grooming by males increases the attractiveness of at least one of their scents to females. © 1996 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Publication Title

Animal Behaviour