Behaviour 2019
Early Rearing Environment Influences Prairie Vole Adult Mating Tactics
Jesus E Madrid, Mary T Slavinsky, Molly E Smullen, Alexander G Ophir. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States

Variation in environmental context serves as a prime source for the expression of alternative mating tactics, highlighting the importance of development in later life. The socially monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is often touted for its propensity to form bonds, yet field studies show that some also engage in non-monogamous mating tactics. Within this biparental species, parental nest composition varies, and single-mother nests are common in nature. In the laboratory, animals reared in single-mother nests take longer to form pair bonds as adults. Here, we investigate whether male prairie voles who were reared in a single-mother or bi-parental nest differ in the likelihood to adopt a pair bonded mating tactic (i.e., Residents) or remain single (i.e., Wanderers) under semi-natural conditions. Using radio telemetry in outdoor enclosures, we determined the mating tactics for 27 single-mother and 29 bi-parental males. We found that while 48% of single-mother males became Wanders, only 20% of biparentally reared males remained single. Our results provide support for the hypothesis that early-life social experiences functionally alter reproductive decision-making.