Dissertation Defense Announcement

 College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Dissertation Defense of

Kelsey Clark

for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

March 22, 2022 at 09:00 AM, Zoom Meeting

Advisor: Dr. Michael Ferkin

Social recognition memory in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, depends on sex and familiarity.

ABSTRACT: "Proper social interactions between animals require that an individual discriminate, recognize, and remember the unique cues from conspecifics. Many aspects of social behavior, such as individual recognition, mate recognition, and parent-offspring recognition, may be based on such capabilities. To test social recognition over time, subjects are often repeatedly presented with scent from an individual or have prolonged associations with those individuals and then, later, they are simultaneously exposed to familiar and novel individuals or their scents. If the subject can discriminate between the two and recognize the familiar individual’s characteristics, they should investigate the novel stimulus significantly more than the familiar one. Using this behavioral paradigm, we observed different types of social recognition in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus. I tested the hypotheses that sex, relatedness and previous encounters will dictate how long meadow voles maintain their ability to discriminate familiar from unfamiliar conspecifics. To assess social behaviors during parent-offspring interactions, I also examined whether there were differences in self-grooming behavior toward recently weaned male and female conspecifics. The results of the first study indicated that male meadow voles discriminated between familiar and unfamiliar opposite-sex conspecific odors longer than female meadow voles. However, both males and females have the ability for prolonged recognition after prior associations with a preferred mate but whether they maintain or modify their preferences for the location of their mates was dependent on whether or not they mated. Lastly, meadow voles recalled their female offspring’s scent marks for longer periods of time as compared to their male offspring. Female meadow voles self-groom more in the presence of prepubertal female meadow vole’s scent marks than male meadow voles. Overall, we found that meadow vole’s social organization, mating behavior, ecology and life history strategies likely regulate the necessity to recognize certain individuals over extended periods of time and direct appropriate social behaviors."