Summary. During the spring–summer breeding season, female meadow voles prefer odours of males over those of females, but in the autumn–winter season of reproductive quiescence this preference is reversed. Females housed in long (14 h light/day) and short (10 h light/day) photoperiods, respectively, had odour preferences comparable to those of spring and autumn voles, respectively. The preference of long-photoperiod voles for male over female odours was reversed by ovariectomy and restored by treatment with oestradiol. By contrast, neither ovariectomy nor oestradiol affected odour preferences of short-photoperiod voles. Long days appear to influence olfactory preferences by altering ovarian hormone secretion. The failure of oestradiol to affect odour preferences in short photoperiods suggests that the neural substrates mediating this behavioural response are refractory to oestrogens during the nonbreeding season.
Keywords: odour preferences; seasonality; photoperiod; oestradiol; vole