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Zoologists: Lusty voles, mindless of danger, mate like rabbits
Date:1/28/2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. Forgetful Casanovas are lucky in love.

At least thats how University of Florida researchers interpret the results of new research on the mating habits and nervous systems of prairie voles. An article about the research, which examined both the voles behavior and their brains, appears in this weeks edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Prairie voles, aka Microtus ochrogaster, are common native rodents in the central U.S. and southern Canada. Because they mate for life and are relatively easy to study, the mouse-like creatures have been the subject of much research by scientists probing questions of monogamy and sexual faithfulness among mammals.

Steve Phelps, an assistant professor of zoology and one of the papers three authors, said many male voles pick a female partner and settle in a territory often for life. A minority, however, shirks steady partners and home bases, instead ranging across other males turf and mating with other males females.

Alexander Ophir, a postdoctoral associate in zoology at UF, is the papers lead author and conducted the research, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. Ophir, Phelps and Jerry Wolff, a biologist at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, set out to find out what makes the male wanderers wander behavior all the more puzzling because faithful males enthusiastically defend their partners, lunging at and biting the interlopers.

In their natural habitat, the voles spend their time amid tall grass, where they are difficult to observe. So the researchers radio-collared 48 lab-raised males and 48 lab-raised females, divided them into groups of 12, then placed the groups in eight enclosures in the voles native territory in Tennessee. By tracking the collars, the zoologists were able to map the voles movements for several weeks.

Once they had identified wanderers, faithful males and likely couplings, the scientists
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Contact: Steve Phelps
sphelps@ufl.edu
352-392-6212
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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