Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 147–159 | Cite as

Meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, have the capacity to recall the “what”, “where”, and “when” of a single past event

  • Michael H. Ferkin
  • Amy Combs
  • Javier delBarco-Trillo
  • Andrew A. Pierce
  • Stan Franklin
Original Paper


Some non-human animals may possess the ability to recall the “what”, “where”, and “when” of a single past event. We tested the hypothesis that male meadow voles posses the capacity to recall the “what”, “where”, and “when” of a single past event associated with mate selection in two experiments. Briefly, male voles were allowed to explore an apparatus that contained two chambers. One chamber contained a day-20 pregnant female (24 h prepartum). The other chamber contained a sexually mature female that was neither pregnant nor lactating (REF female). Twenty-four hour after the exposure, the males were placed in the same apparatus, which was empty and clean. At this time, the pregnant female would have entered postpartum estrus (PPE), a period of heightened sexual receptivity. Males initially chose and spent significantly more time investigating the chamber that originally housed the pregnant female (now a PPE female) than the chamber that originally housed the REF female. Male voles also explored an apparatus containing a chamber with a PPE female and one chamber containing a REF female. Twenty-four hour later, males were placed into an empty and clean apparatus. The males did not display an initial choice and they spent similar amounts of time investigating the chamber that originally housed the PPE female (now a lactating female) and the chamber that originally housed the REF female. The results of these and additional experiments suggest that male voles may have the capacity to recall the “what”, “where”, and “when” of a single past event, which may allow males to remember the location of females who would currently be in heightened states of sexual receptivity.


Recollection for what, when, and where Voles Reproductive state Postpartum estrus 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael H. Ferkin
    • 1
  • Amy Combs
    • 1
  • Javier delBarco-Trillo
    • 1
    • 3
  • Andrew A. Pierce
    • 1
    • 4
  • Stan Franklin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyThe University of MemphisMemphisUSA
  2. 2.Fed Ex Institute of TechnologyInstitute of Intelligent SystemsMemphisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, Uris HallCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  4. 4.Diabetes CenterUniversity of California-San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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