Self-grooming by male meadow voles differs across copulation but is not affected by the risk and intensity of sperm competition


Meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, self-groom before, during and after copulation, which may convey olfactory information to nearby conspecifics. Since males who self-groom at high rates were found to be attractive to females, it is possible that the copulating male may attempt to increase his attractiveness over that of other males who are present or nearby. In that the presence of other males affects sperm investment and can be used by males as an indicator of sperm competition, we tested the hypothesis that the presence of scent marks of other males near a sexually receptive female affects the self-grooming behaviour of males that encounter them. We did so by pairing a male and a female vole in the presence of the odours of one male conspecific, five male conspecifics, or no male conspecifics. The amount of time male voles self-groomed was not affected by the risk or intensity of sperm competition. We also tested the hypothesis that self-grooming behaviour of males differed depending on whether it was performed before, during, or after copulation. Male voles differed in the amount of time and the location on their body that they self-groomed before, during, and after copulation. © 2009 Brill.

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