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Exploratory Behaviour in the Short-Tailed Vole Microtus Agrestis

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Short-tailed voles know the area of their range in detail and this knowledge is maintained by regular exploratory activity, which occurs at frequent intervals in familiar surroundings as well as in new situations. Observations of this behaviour in voles, suggest that is is an instinctive behaviour pattern. There is an exploratory drive present for the animal to know the topography of its surroundings. The appetitive phase of the drive, called reconnaissance behaviour, takes the form of more or less random movements through the range, during which the animal reacts to anything different from that previously experienced and confirms old objects, so that memory is refreshed. The presence of a "new object" elicits investigation which may follow a set pattern. In the vole this is approach, nose and touch with withdrawals at some stage. The drive is satisfied by reception of sensory stimuli from objects or situations after a certain time of exposure to them. The periodic recurrence of reconnaissance behaviour is believed to be due to a fading of the effects of the sensory stimuli on the animal.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Exeter

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