Sexual and Social Interactions Preceding and During Male-Induced Estrus in Prairie Voles, Microtus-Ochrogaster
Behaviour was quantified in pairs of prairie voles preceding and during sexual interactions through the use of time-lapse videotaping. At the onset of testing, females were either anoestrous or were in confirmed behavioural oestrus. These females were paired with either sexually naive or experienced males and behavioural interactions were monitored for at least 72 h. For anoestrus females, brought into oestrus during taping, the median latency to the onset of sexual activity was 52 h with naive males and 41 h with sexually experienced males. Typical mating bouts lasted for more than 24 h with intermittent periods of rest. The pacing of mating behaviour differed only slightly as a function of male sexual experience and did not differ as a function of the oestrous condition of the female at the onset of videotaping. Autogrooming, which may facilitate the transfer of chemosignals, was monitored throughout the experiment. Within 13–24 h following introduction of the pair, autogrooming increased in pairs in which the male was sexually experienced; in contrast, in pairs in which the male was sexually naive, increases in autogrooming were not observed until 25–36 h following the onset of videotaping. The oestrous condition of the female did not significantly affect patterns of autogrooming; however, autogrooming patterns in the female paralleled those of the male with which she was paired.