, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 401-405

Female bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) prefer dominant males; but what if there is no choice?

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Both intra-sexual competition between males and female mate choice have been found to affect mating behaviour in rodents. We studied female choice in the bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) under circumstances where male-male competition was excluded and the female could interact and mate freely with the males. Mating behaviour was observed in two situations: (1) the female encountered two males with a clear dominance relationship; and (2) the two males were equal in their social status. In all tests where a female in postpartum oestrus had a choice between males of different social rank she mated with the dominant one. When choosing between an even pair of males there was no difference in the frequency of lordotic responses, mounts or intromissions the female exhibited with either male before mating with one of them. The mean ejaculation latency was significantly longer in the tests with an even pair of males than in the tests where male hierarchy was clear. These results show that bank vole females are able to discriminate males according to their social status and strongly prefer dominant males as mating partners. However, when the females were presented with two equal males, they seemed to be unable to make a choice. The ability to choose the mating partner when the males are clearly different may be an important direct benefit for the female in terms of time saved during mating and thus decreased risk of predation and infanticide.

Received: 16 March 1995/Accepted after revision: 11 February 1996