Female-directed aggression predicts paternal behavior, but female prairie voles prefer affiliative males to paternal males

Alexander G. Ophir*, Ondi L. Crino, Quiana C. Wilkerson, Jerry O. Wolff, Steven M. Phelps

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    In the socially monogamous prairie vole, Microtus ochrogaster, male affiliation and parental care are influenced by the neuropeptide arginine vasopressin and expression of its receptor V1aR. If parental care and adult affiliation can be considered a behavioral syndrome, females might use male affiliative behavior as a cue to choose a good father. We investigated three questions: (1) do females prefer affiliative males; (2) do males that are affiliative with females demonstrate paternal behavior with pups; and (3) is male V1aR expression related to male behavior or female preference? We evaluated paternal behavior of individual males, then offered sexually receptive females a choice between paternal and non-paternal males and measured the proportion of time each male spent engaging in affiliative behavior with the choosing female. Females showed a preference for more affiliative males, but affiliation was not predictive of paternal care. Thus females did not discriminate between paternal and non-paternal males. Perhaps surprisingly, paternal behavior was correlated with the relative amount of aggression males directed toward females. Finally, females did not discriminate between males with high or low V1aR expression and V1aR expression did not predict male affiliative behavior or parental care. These data suggest that male affiliative behavior, but not paternal care, is associated with female mate choice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)32-40
    Number of pages9
    JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


    • Affiliation
    • Aggression
    • AVP
    • Mate choice
    • Microtus ochrogaster
    • Monogamy
    • Pair bond
    • Paternal care
    • V1aR
    • Vasopressin


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