Trichinella spiralis infection in voles alters female odor preference but not partner preference

Sabra L. Klein, H. Ray Gamble, Randy J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Females may choose mates based on secondary sex traits that reflect disease resistance. Accordingly, females should be able to distinguish between unparasitized and parasitized males, and should prefer to mate with unparasitized individuals. Mate and odor preferences for uninfected males or males infected with the nematode, Trichinella spiralis, were examined among prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and meadow voles (M. pennsylvanicus). In a 15-min odor preference test, only female meadow voles distinguished between bedding from parasitized and unparasitized conspecific males, and preferred to spend time with bedding from unparasitized males. Although T. spiralis infection influenced odor preference in female meadow voles, there was no effect of infection status on mate preference among either species. Testosterone and corticosterone concentrations were not different between parasitized and unparasitized males. However, among prairie voles, males that spent an increased amount of time with females during the mate preference test had elevated testosterone concentrations. Taken together, these data suggest that (1) female meadow voles can discriminate between unparasitized and parasitized males, (2) the effects of infection on steroid hormone concentrations may be masked by the effects of social interactions, and (3) parasites may represent a selective constraint on partner preference in voles; however, the life cycle of parasites may influence female preference and should be considered in studies of female preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-329
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1999


  • Arvicoline rodents
  • Corticosterone
  • Female preference
  • Parasite infection
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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