The relationship between dominance rank and spatial ability among male meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

J Comp Psychol. 2004 Sep;118(3):332-9. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.118.3.332.


Males of many mammalian species exhibit contest competition and scramble competition for mates, but the relationship between these 2 forms of competition remains poorly understood. The authors measured dominance rank and spatial ability as traits likely to be selected by contest and scramble competition, respectively, among male meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus). The spatial ability of males was assessed using water maze tests, and dominance rank was determined using paired trials in a neutral arena. Dominant males had better spatial-learning ability and tended to have quicker learning speed but did not have better spatial memory than less aggressive subordinates. Therefore, the authors found no evidence that contest and scramble competition have favored alternative reproductive phenotypes among male meadow voles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning
  • Social Dominance*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*