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J Comp Psychol. 1990 Sep;104(3):268-74.

Differences in affiliative behavior, pair bonding, and vaginal cytology in two species of vole (Microtus ochrogaster and M. montanus).

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  • 1University of Florida.


Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and montane voles (M. montanus) display marked differences in social organization in the field. Trios of 1 male and 2 females were studied in a large enclosure for a 10-day period. Prairie voles spent 59% of the observation time in side-by-side contact, whereas montane voles spent only 7% of the time in contact. Vaginal smears indicated female-female suppression of estrus in prairie voles; female montane voles appeared to cycle in the presence of males. Male prairie voles preferentially paired and nested with 1 of the females, and vaginal estrus generally followed pair formation by 2 days. Male montane voles did not spend time preferentially with either female, even after mating. These results suggest that the contrasting mating systems of these species result from differences in the propensity for affiliative behavior and social bonding rather than from mate availability or female receptivity.

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