• Article

Social factors regulate female-female aggression and affiliation in prairie voles

Although patterns of aggression and affiliation may play a major role in social organization, the mechanisms underlying these behaviors are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of social and hormonal experience on female-female aggression and affiliation in prairie voles, Microtus ochrogaster. Prairie voles exhibit the traits of social monogamy and tend to live in communal families structured around a male-female pair. It is rare for two unrelated females within a family to successfully reproduce. In this study, the social and/or hormonal experiences of female prairie voles were varied and female-female aggression and affiliation were measured during dyadic encounters with unfamiliar, nonaggressive females. An increase in aggression and decline in affiliative behaviors toward a stimulus female was observed during pregnancy and following male-cohabitation, with or without mating. Pairing with another female did not result in changes in either aggressive or affiliative behaviors toward the stimulus female. Female-female aggression increased and affiliative behaviors declined, with a maximal effect following approximately 8 - 12 days of male cohabitation. Similar patterns of change were seen in both ovariectomized and gonadally intact females, and treatment with estradiol and subsequent sexual experience did not significantly alter the tendency of females to show aggression or affiliative contact. Social experiences associated with prolonged cohabitation with a male facilitate the induction of female-female aggression; however, ovarian hormones, pregnancy or mating are not essential to induce aggression. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved


Bowler, CM., Cushing, BS., & Carter Porges, C. (2002). Social factors regulate female-female aggression and affiliation in prairie voles. Physiology & Behavior, 76(4-5), 559-566. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-9384(02)00755-2