Animal behavior: Which of the prairie and meadow voles species has the most social motivation?

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Spending time with friends, family, and loved ones is a potentially effective social motivation tactic that, according to a recently published study, may be beneficial for some voles but is simply tolerable for others.

According to a report from Phys.org, the findings suggest what happens in the brains of voles when different types of relationships are built and show that social motivation can differ depending on the individual, gender, and species.

As similar brain structures and hormones are involved in social interactions in many species, including humans, this new finding could lay the groundwork for a better understanding of some of the

As hormones and similar brain structures are involved in social interactions in many species, including humans, this new information may lay the groundwork for a better understanding of some of the fundamental principles of social differences.

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(Photo: Plantsurfer on Wikimedia Commons)
Spending time with friends, family, and loved ones is a potentially effective social motivation tactic that may be beneficial for some voles but is just plain tolerable for others.

Voles, naturally social creatures

Voles are ideal model animals for studying social behavior, as they are naturally social creatures. Some species of voles like prairie voles, as explained in AllThingsNature, form lasting social bonds with both their mates and same-sex peers.

Meadow voles, on the other hand, only build communities to survive during the winter, then they separate during the warmer season.

According to the study’s first author, Annaliese Beery said she wanted to know why voles of these two species spend time in social contact.

Beery, who led this study in his lab at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, United States, and is currently at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology added that they wanted to know what role the motivation social play in their behavior, or to what extent “social selectivity is more about avoiding strangers.”

The “food reward”

To find the answer, a similar report from Bioengieering.org states, Beery, along with his colleagues, trained the two species of voles to push a bar for a food reward afterwards.

They then replaced the rewards with a brief access to a familiar vole of the same species, or an alien, to find out how often the voles were pushing the bar to approach the other animal.

With each successive push of the bar, it became more difficult to access the other vole, with the other animals having to push the bar again for more access.

Commenting on the results of the study published in ELife, Beery said he found “striking differences between species and sex” in other animals that voles would work to get closer.

Comparison of Social Interactions of Prairie Voles and Meadow Voles

Specifically, the research team found that female prairie voles worked harder to be able to see familiar voles than strangers, although male prairie voles did not exhibit this preference for their knowledge.

Instead, the males worked hard to access females, although they showed less interest in the males. However, males always grouped with pets when they were together.

The prairie voles in the study, all female, did not work as hard as the prairie females to reach pets. Together, the results suggest that prairie voles find it rewarding to have social interactions with pets.

Meadow voles, on the other hand, were more likely to tolerate family and friends than unfamiliar animals, although they were not very motivated by such interactions.

Related information on voles is featured on the Emory University YouTube video below:

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Find more animal news and information in Science Times.


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