Comparison of sociability, parental care and central estrogen receptor α expression between two populations of mandarin voles (Microtus mandarinus).
ABSTRACT The socially monogamous mandarin vole (Microtus mandarinus) shows significant behavioral plasticity. We examined whether levels of sociability, parental care and central expression of estrogen receptor alpha differed between two populations with different ecologies. Our results show that males from the Chengcun population display significantly more amicable and less aggressive behaviors towards novel same-sex individuals compared to males from the second population of Xinzheng. Chengcun voles directed more licking behavior towards neonatal pups than did Xinzheng voles. Differences were also found in the number of estrogen receptor alpha-immunoreactive neurons. For example, Xinzheng males displayed significantly higher immunoreactivity than Chengcun males in the medial amygdala, medial preoptic area and ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. Xinzheng females expressed higher levels of estrogen receptor alpha-immunoreactivity than Chengcun females in the medial preoptic area. Chengcun females exhibited significantly more estrogen receptor alpha expression than Xinzheng females in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Our results indicate that mandarin voles from the Chengcun site possess monogamous traits, and animals from Xinzheng possess polygamous traits. It also appears that different social behavior and levels of parental care in these two populations may be associated with differences in estrogen receptor alpha-immunoreactive neurons.