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Biol Reprod. 1996 May;54(5):1038-45.

Chemical cues are necessary but insufficient for reproductive activation of female pine vole (Microtus pinetorum).

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Department of Zoology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056, USA.


Among various arvicoline rodents, reproduction is influenced to varying degrees by social factors, including behavioral or chemical cues. Since previous research suggested that chemosignals from adult males reproductively activate female pine voles (Microtus pine-torum), we sought to determine specifically what types of stimuli promote the activation response. In these experiments, female were exposed to unfamiliar adult males, or to some combination of cues from males, or were housed alone. Using uterine mass as a measure of reproductive activation, we found that females were not activated by exposure either to male urine by itself or to male-soiled bedding by itself, but full contact with a male clearly resulted in heavier uteri. Females whose vomeronasal organs were surgically excised failed to undergo reproductive activation when housed with males. Finally, females allowed physical contact by being housed directly underneath males had heavier uteri than did females whose housing allowed contact only with the chemical cues from males. Among female arvicoline rodents, it appears that there exists a physiological continuum between absolute dependence on both contact and chemical cues from males vs. absolute independence for reproductive activation. The present results place female pine voles closer to the former extreme than to the latter.

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