Exposure to strangers does not cause pregnancy distribution or infanticide in the gray-tailed vole Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/w9505450x

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  • Numerous laboratory studies with at least 12 species of rodents have reported that exposure of females to strange males results in pregnancy disruption or infanticide. The proximate causes and ultimate benefits of these behaviors have been proposed from an evolutionary perspective. To determine if exposure to strange males or females caused pregnancy disruption and (or) infanticide in a resident gray-tailed vole (Microtus canicaudus) population, pregnancy rate and juvenile recruitment were monitored in populations of 12 female and 12 male voles following introduction of unfamiliar adults. These experiments were conducted in 12 0.2 ha enclosures using three treatments and a control. Every 10 days 12 males, six males, or six females were removed and replaced in the three treatments, respectively, or the populations were left unmanipulated in the control (3 replicates/treatment). The time to first parturition, time between parturitions, number of juveniles recruited/parturition, and percent of births followed by lactation did not vary among the controls and three treatments. The only observable effects of treatment were a slight non-significant delay in time to first birth in the 12-male treatment and a slightly significant difference in the number of pregnancies per female. These results do not support previous laboratory studies indicating that exposure to strangers causes pregnancy disruption and (or) infanticide at high rates. Therefore, in field conditions, little evidence was found indicating that female gray-tailed voles' reproductive fitness declines after exposure to strangers. I propose that results from laboratory studies on behavioral aspects of mammals should be validated with field data prior to being extrapolated to natural populations and applied to evolutionary paradigms.
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