Behaviour 2019
Pair Bond Strength Variation in the Female Prairie Vole
Santiago A. Forero1, Lindsay L. Sailer1, Aiste Gircyte2, Jesus E. Madrid1, Alexander G.. Ophir1. 1Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States; 2Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, , United Kingdom

Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are a monogamous mammalian species in which pair bonding and mate fidelity are associated with greater reproductive success. Notably, males, but not females, demonstrate a preference to bond under laboratory conditions when given the option to remain single and mate multiply. However, field data indicate that about a third of adults are unpaired yet remain reproductively active. These alternative mating tactics may be partly due to variation in bond strength, modulating social and mate fidelity. Yet most work assessing variation in bond strength has been conducted in males, while females are often ignored. Here, we assessed the mechanisms mediating variation of pair bond strength in female prairie voles. By manipulating neural activity at two life history stages (before and after parturition), we showed that both neural activity and reproductive context modulate bond strength. If variation in bond strength leads to mate infidelity, and variation in bonds is largely driven by female neural and reproductive state, then these results may help explain the sources of variation that contribute to alternative mating tactics in prairie voles.