Size of the Vomeronasal Organ in Wild Microtus with Different Mating Strategies

Abstract

Most studies on mammalian vomeronasal organ (VNO) have been on laboratory-bred animals. Our present study examines the VNO in wild-caught meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus; n=16) and prairie voles (M. ochrogaster; n=15). These species vary in their mating strategies and degree of parental care by males. M. ochrogaster exhibits pair bonding and more paternal care compared to M. pennsylvanicus, a promiscuous species. We hypothesize that sexual dimorphism will occur in the promiscuous species based on previous studies which suggest that those who exhibit more aggressive or masculine behavior have larger VNOs. Our results support our original finding that VNOs are not different in size in wild Microtus spp. that vary in male parental tendencies. However, the present study also indicates that M. pennsylvanicus, the species exhibiting more disparate parental tendencies, exhibited larger VNOs in females than males. This is the reverse of previous findings on rats, and we hypothesize that this difference may be due to mate selectivity and/or maternal aggression.

References

  1. 1.

    Dawley, E. M., Crowder, J. (1995) Sexual and seasonal differences in the vomeronasal epithelium of the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus). J. Comp. Neurol. 359, 382–390.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Del Punta, K., Leinders-Zufall, T., Rodriguez, I., Jukam, D., Wysocki, C. J., Ogawa, S., Zufall, F., Mombaerts, P. (2002) Deficiënt pheromone responses in mice lacking a. cluster of vomeronasal receptor genes. Nature 419, 70–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Gruder-Adams, S., Getz, L. L. (1985) Comparison of the mating system and paternal behavior in Microtus ochrogaster and M. pennsylvanicus. J. Mammal. 66, 165–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Kolunie, J. M., Stern, J. M. (1995) Maternal aggression in rats: effects of olfactory bulbectomy, ZnS04-induced anosmia, and vomeronasal organ removal. Horm. Behav. 4, 492–518.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Lepri, J. J., Wysocki, C. J. (1987) Removal of the vomeronasal organ disrupts the activation of repro-duction in female voles. Physiol. Behav. 140, 349–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Lonstein, J. S., De Vries, G. J. (2000) Influence of gonadal hormones on the development of parental behavior in adult virgin prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster). Behav. Brain Res. 114, 79–87.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Maico, L. M., Roslinski, D. L., Burrows, A. M., Mooney, M. R., Siegel, M. I., Kunwar, P. B., Smith, T. D. (2001) Size of the vomeronasal organ in wild Microtus. In: Marclewska-Koj et al. (eds), Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 9. Kluwer Academie/Plenum Publishers, New York, 101–105.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Meek, L. R., Lee, T. M., Rogers, E. A., Hernandez, R. G. (1994) Effect of vomeronasal organ removal on behavioral estrus and mating latency in female meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus). Biol. Reprod. 51, 400–104.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Meredith, M., O’Connell, R. J. (1979) Efferent control of stimulus access to the hamster vomeronasal organ. J. Physiol. 286, 301–316.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Oliveras, D., Novak, M. (1986) A. comparison of paternal behavior in the meadow vole Microtus pennsylvanicus, the pine vole M. pinetorum and the prairie vole M. ochrogaster. Anim. Behav. 34, 519–526.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Powers, J. B., Winans, S. S. (1975) Vomeronasal organ: critical role in mediating sexual behavior in the male hamster. Science 187, 961–963.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Schilling, A., Perret, M., Predine, J. (1984) Sexual inhibition in a. prosimian primate: a. pheromone-like effect J. Endocrinol. 102, 143–151.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Segovia, S., Guillamón, A. (1982) Effects of sex steroids on the development of the vomeronasal organ in the rat. Dev. Brain Res. 5, 209–212.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Segovia, S., Guillamón, A. (1993) Sexual dimorphism in the vomeronasal pathway and sex differ-ences in reproductive behaviors. Brain Res. Rev. 18, 51–74.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Shapiro, L. E., Leonard, C. M., Sessions C. E., Dewsbury, D. A., Insel, T. R. (1991) Comparative neuroanatomy of the sexually dimorphic hypothalamus in monogamous and polygamous voles. Brain Res. 541, 232–240.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Siegel, M. I., Todhunter, J. S., Doyle, W. J., Rood, S. T. (1983) Computer reconstruction of eustachi-an tube anatomy Ann. Oto. Rhinol. Laryngol. 92, 10–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Smith, T. D., Roslinski, D. L., Burrows, A. M., Bhatnagar, K. P., Mooney, M. R., Siegel, M. I. (2001) Size of the vomeronasal neuroepithelium in two species of Microtus with differing levels of paternal behavior. J. Mammal. 82, 209–217.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Sokal, R. R., Rohlf F. J. (1981) Biometry. W. H. Freeman and Co, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Wang, Z., Insel, T. R. (1996) Parental behavior in voles. In: Rosenblatt, J. S., Snowdon, C. T. (eds), Parental Care - Evolution, Mechanisms, and Adaptive Significance. Academic Press, San Diego, 361–384.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Webster, A. B., Gartshore, R. G., Brooks, R. J. (1981) Infanticide in the meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus: significance in relation to social system and population cycling. Behav. Neural Biol. 31, 342–347.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Weiier, E., Apfelbach, R., Farbman, A. I. (1999) The vomeronasal organ of the male ferret. Chem. Senses 24, 127–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Weiier, E., McCulloch, M. A., Farbman, A. I. (1999) Proliferation in the vomeronasal organ of the rat during postnatal development. Eur J. Neurosci. 11, 700–711.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Wysocki, C. J., Kruczek, M., Wysocki, L. M., Lepri, J. J. (1991) Activation of reproduction in nulli-parous and primiparous voles is blocked by vomeronasal organ removal. Biol. Reprod. 45, 611–616.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Wysocki, C. J., Lepri, J. L. (1991) Consequences of removing the vomeronasal organ. J. Steroid Biochem. Molec. Biol. 39, 661–669.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by a grant from the State System of Higher Education of Pennsylvania. We are grateful to S. J. C. Gaulin for his loan of live traps and S. B. McLaren for help in selecting trapping sites. We would also like to thank Dana L. Roslinski for her work in sectioning and staining tissues. Our gratitude also extends to Kong Tan for his input and assistance during editing.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lisette M. Maico.

Additional information

A preliminary report of this work was presented at the Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 9 (see [7])

Rights and permissions

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Maico, L.M., Burrows, A.M., Mooney, M.P. et al. Size of the Vomeronasal Organ in Wild Microtus with Different Mating Strategies. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 54, 263–273 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1556/ABiol.54.2003.3-4.5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Mate selectivity
  • vomeronasal neuroepithelium
  • chemosensory