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Anim Behav. 2011 Jan;81(1):11-18.

avpr1a length polymorphism is not associated with either social or genetic monogamy in free-living prairie voles.

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  • 1Department of Zoology and Center for Animal Behaviour, Miami University, Oxford, OH.


Recent discoveries of single-gene influences on social behaviour have generated a great deal of interest in the proximate mechanisms underlying the expression of complex behaviours. Length polymorphism in a microsatellite in the regulatory region of the gene encoding the vasopressin 1a receptor (avpr1a) has been associated with both inter- and intra-specific variation in socially monogamous behaviour in voles (genus Microtus) under laboratory conditions. Here, we evaluate the relationship between avpr1a length polymorphism and social associations, genetic monogamy, and reproductive success in free-living prairie vole (M. ochrogaster) populations. We found no evidence of a relationship between avpr1a microsatellite length and any of our correlates of either social or genetic monogamy in the field. Our results, especially when taken in conjunction with those of recent experimental studies in semi-natural enclosures, suggest that avpr1a polymorphism is unlikely to have been a major influence in the evolution or maintenance of social monogamy in prairie voles under natural conditions.

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