The Behavior of Female Meadow Voles, Microtus Pennsylvanicus, During Postpartum Estrus and the Responses of Males to Them

Document Type


Publication Title

Mammalian Biology

Publication Date



For numerous species of terrestrial mammals, postpartum estrus, PPE, is a period of heightened attractivity, proceptivity, and receptivity that occurs shortly after the female delivers her litter. Many mammals mate almost exclusively during PPE. However, we know little about the behavior of PPE females and how male conspecifics behave toward them. This review focuses on the results of recent studies that tried to examine systematically the behavior of PPE female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, and the responses of males to them. Our review is divided in five parts. First, we introduce the topic of PPE in rodents. Second, we discuss the outcome of studies showing that PPE female voles were more attractive to males, directed more proceptive behaviors toward males, and were more sexually receptive and likely to get pregnant compared to females that were not in PPE. Third, we discuss studies that examined how male voles respond and adjust their behavior when they encounter PPE females. Males increase the likelihood of mating with PPE females by recalling the reproductive state of females and the location of their nests, and by anticipating how long or when each of these females would be in PPE. Fourth, we focus in how food availability, an ecological constraint facing gestating female voles, affected their attractivity, proceptivity, and receptivity postpartum. Fifth, we revisit the benefits of seeking out and mating with PPE females and introduce the costs of doing so for both males and PPE females. We close our review with a list of questions that can be used to formulate testable hypotheses surrounding the behavior of PPE females and the responses of male conspecifics to them.

Funding Source

This research was supported by National Institute of Health grant HD49525 and National Science Foundation grant IOS 444553 to M.H.F. and by a Ramón y Cajal fellowship (RYC-2011-07943) to J.d.-T. from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.


This article was originally published as Ferkin, Michael H., and delBarco-Trillo, Javier. (2014) The behavior of female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, during postpartum estrus and the responses of males to them. Mammalian Biology, 79(2): 81-89.