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The Ontogeny of Ultrasonic Vocalization in Microtus Montanus

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Developmental changes in parameters of ultrasound production were investigated in M. montanus young. The rate of ultrasonic vocalization reached a peak on Day 2 of postnatal ontogeny and declined to zero on Day 15. A similar developmental pattern has been found in several other rodent species. However, the comparatively early peak rate is indicative of a degree of ontogenic precociousness. Other developmental changes, both behavioural and morphological, tend to confirm that M. montanus young are relatively precocious. The duration of ultrasonic vocalizations did not show a significant change across early development. The mean duration for each vocalization sampled was 22.92 msec. The distribution of these vocalizations showed that a considerable number of vocalizations were of very short duration (<30 msec). The developmental changes in the percentage of young emitting ultrasounds began to decline following Day 8 and reached zero percent on Day 15. This decline in the percentage of young vocalizing corresponded to changes in maternal behaviour. Both the rate of ultrasonic vocalization and the percentage of young vocalizing were significantly correlated with the age of the young. Being correlated with age, these parameters of ultrasound production have the possibility of having great communicative value for the purposes of maternal care.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Potsdam, N.Y., U.S.A.

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