Mechanisms of reproductive suppression in female pine voles (Microtus pinetorum)

in Reproduction

In co-operatively breeding birds and mammals, philopatric females are often reproductively suppressed. Many studies have focused on the functional significance of reproductive suppression, but further investigation of the mechanisms involved is required for a complete understanding of this process. This study investigated whether reproductive suppression in non-reproductive female pine voles (Microtus pinetorum) occurs as a result of lack of gamete maturation or lack of increase in LH. The behaviour of male pine voles was also examined to determine whether they show a preference for the mother versus her daughter, as lack of male stimulation may inhibit an increase of LH in daughter pine voles. Ovarian development and circulating LH concentrations were investigated in females housed with a prospective mate in the presence or absence of a parent. Maturation of gametes was not affected by the presence of a parent. In the presence of the mother, there was no increase in LH, as was observed in females housed with or exposed to a novel male. Males spent more time with mothers and possibly showed a preference for mating with the mother. These results are consistent with the contention that ovulation does not occur in female pine voles housed in the presence of their mother; however, it is not clear whether the lack of ovulation is caused by lack of stimulation from the male or suppression by the mother.

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