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Scent Marking With Urine in Two Races of the Bank Vole (Clethrionomys Glareolus)

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Male bank voles were observed to exhibit a high frequency of urination while exploring a novel area, but only a small amount of urine was released each time. It is suggested that this behaviour is a form of scent marking. Two geographically isolated races of the vole were investigated; these were Clethrionomys glareolus skomerensis from the island of Skomer, Wales, and C. g. britannicus from the mainland of Britain. It was found that Skomer males tended to leave trails of small drops of urine whereas mainland males typically released a smaller quantity of urine at each urination, often in the form of a finely drawn out trace. The frequency of urination was higher in mainland voles than in Skomer voles. The pattern of urination was found to be sexually dimorphic; females were less likely to urinate than the males and when they did so they tended to release single large drops. Urination observed during these tests did not usually result in the bladder being emptied in either males or females. Animals that did not urinate, or did so relatively infrequently, were also usually found to have urine in their bladders. In mainland males, and females of either race, there was no change in the frequency of urination as the animals became familiar with the test box. Skomer males, however, showed a decrease in the frequency of urination with repeated testing. Compared with urination, there was little difference between races or between sexes in the frequency of defaecation. The adaptive advantage of a modified pattern of urination, where urination constitutes a form of scent marking, is discussed, and the possible significance of the differences between the two races is considered.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland


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