Self-grooming as a tactic used by prairie voles Microtus ochrogaster to enhance sexual communication
Observations of numerous mammals suggest males self-groom more than females in response to the odours of opposite-sex conspecifics. Two experiments tested the hypothesis that self-grooming may be a tactic used by males to attract mates in prairie voles Microtus ochrogaster. In the first experiment, we measured the amounts of time voles self-groomed during exposure either to male-scented cotton bedding, female-scented cotton bedding, or clean cotton bedding. Results from this experiment support the hypothesis and also show that female prairie voles self-groom in response to odours of males. In addition, male prairie voles groom more in response to male odours than to female odours, suggesting that self-grooming also serves a role in male-male competition: In the second experiment, male and female voles spent more time investigating scent marks of opposite-sex conspecifics that recently self-groomed at a higher rate than those of opposite-sex conspecifics that self-groomed at a lower rate. Female, but not male prairie voles, spent more time investigating scent marks of opposite-sex conspecifics that self-groomed at a high rate than those of same-sex conspecifics that self-groomed at a high rate. For prairie voles, self-grooming may increase the detection of their scent marks by conspecifics. By self-grooming, prairie voles may be attempting to attract opposite-sex conspecifics, and males may also be attempting to deter encounters with male conspecifics.
Ferkin, M., Leonard, S., Heath, L., & Paz-y-Miño, C. (2001). Self-grooming as a tactic used by prairie voles Microtus ochrogaster to enhance sexual communication. Ethology, 107 (10), 939-949. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1439-0310.2001.00725.x