, Volume 45, Issue 3-4, pp 283-291

Multiple paternity in meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus): investigating the role of the female

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Abstract

Multiple paternity in single litters conceived in the wild was recently demonstrated in meadow voles (Microtuspennsylvanicus). In this study, we used an experimental approach (males tethered and females allowed to mate freely with one or several males) to investigate the role of female meadow voles in multiple paternity. We found that among 29 (of 39) females that copulated during our experiment, 79.3% chose to mate with more than one male. Female behavior in meadow voles thus clearly promotes multiple paternity and their role is an active one. Some of the hypotheses explaining promiscuity in meadow voles should be reconsidered in light of this result. We do not know the primary determinant of female mate choice, but male body mass played a secondary role in driving female preferences. The partial dependence between male body mass and female choice, coupled with the active role played by females, indicates that intersexual selection has the potential for reinforcing the effects of intrasexual selection (male-male dominance relationships) in this species. Finally, we demonstrate that the time period over which tests are conducted is an important part of the design of experiments aimed at understanding the role of females in multiple paternity.

Received: 14 April 1998 / Accepted after revision: 12 September 1998