Female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, do not alter their over-marking in response to female conspecifics that were food deprived
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- Vlautin, C.T. & Ferkin, M.H. acta ethol (2014) 17: 69. doi:10.1007/s10211-013-0161-5
Many terrestrial mammals will deposit scent marks and over-marks, the latter being the overlapping scent marks of two conspecifics. Studies have shown that male rodents that are exposed to the overlapping scent marks of two female conspecifics later spend more time investigating the mark of the top-scent female than that of the bottom-scent female. This suggests that over-marking is a form of competition and that the top-scent female is more likely than the bottom-scent female to be chosen as a potential mate. Thus, females should over-mark the scents of neighboring females at a rate that will maximize their chances of attracting males. However, meadow voles live in areas that may contain patchy food availability and residents may differ in their nutritional status. Females in a better nutritional state may be more likely than those in poorer nutritional states to indicate their presence in an area, signal possession of a territory, and to attract mates. Thus, we tested the prediction that female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, that were not food deprived would deposit more over-marks than female voles that were food deprived for 6 h. Food-deprived female voles and female voles that had continuous access to food deposited a similar number of scent marks and used a similar proportion of those marks as over-marks when they encountered the scent marks of female conspecifics. These findings suggest that the nutritional status of female voles does not affect their ability to signal their presence in an area marked by a female conspecific.