Self-referencing and recognition in meadow voles, microtus pennsylvanicus
Date of Issue:2008
Journal/Publication Title:Animal Cognition
Abstract:Some animals may behave as if they are aware of their surroundings, and respond to social stimuli, perhaps their own scents, to which they are exposed sequentially or simultaneously. Such abilities would suggest that they may have the capacity for self-recognition and self referencing. To test this hypothesis, we exposed meadow voles to their own scent marks, those of unfamiliar conspecifics and those of siblings, and used a habituation/dishabituation task to determine if voles can distinguish among the scent marks of these different donors. Voles discriminated their own scent marks from scent marks of unfamiliar conspecifics and those of closely related individuals with whom they share aspects of their phenotype. Gonadectomized voles that received no replacement hormone also discriminated between scent marks of their current selves and those of unfamiliar, similarly aged, same-sex conspecifics, and distinguished between the scent marks of their past selves and those of their current selves. In contrast, gonadectomized voles that received gonadal hormone replacement behaved as if the scent marks of their past and current selves were the same. The data are consistent with the suggestion that voles may have the capacity for self referencing and self-recognition. Voles may have a template for self and this template or its perception is affected by circulating gonadal hormone titers. The implications of such a template are discussed.