Scent marking by common volesMicrotus arvalis in the presence of a same-sex neighbour
Several vole species use scent marked runways radiating from their burrows for foraging and dispersion. These marks are probably used for social communication. This 4-day laboratory study investigated the environmental and social causations of marking inside pre-existing corridors in male and female common volesMicrotus arvalis (Pallas, 1778). Firstly I tested the novelty and the reinforcement hypotheses in isolated voles, predicting respectively a habituation or a continuous increase in mark deposition. I then confronted with each other two same-sex voles for two days to investigate the differences between males and females in the pattern of marks inside three corridors, one of which runs along the common partition with the neighbour. I tested the self-advertisement and territorial-defence hypotheses, respectively predicting in the presence of a neighbour either a similar marking between the three corridors or a greater marking in the corridor close to the neighbour than in the two other corridors. The results showed no habituation in marking, even in a familiar environment, confirming the reinforcement hypothesis. After the addition of a neighbour, only the females left more marks in the corridor that ran alongside the common border than in the two other corridors. The territorial-defence hypothesis was thus confirmed in (territorial) females while the self-advertisement was supported in (non-territorial) males. Finally, I tested the competitive-ability hypothesis in females, stating that the abundance of scent marks of an individual before a social interaction can predict its degree of intolerance in a future social interaction. The results from female pairs physically interacting for four days support the hypothesis.
Key wordsMicrotus arvalis odour rodent runways territory defence novelty
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