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Faithful voles have hidden infidelities

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9:53am, August 23, 2005

From Snowbird, Utah, at a meeting of the Animal Behavior Society

Prairie voles, the standard model for mammalian-monogamy studies, actually get around more than most scientists had expected.

Vole mating intrigues researchers because the various species of the hamster-size rodents show lifestyles ranging from nuclear families to single-mom-and-deadbeat-dad situations. Comparing species gives scientists a window on the biological basis of social bonds. Prairie vole moms and dads share home ranges and pup care, and earlier studies provided evidence of only low rates of extra-pair encounters. There's even been talk of a monogamy gene behind the prairie voles' fidelity (SN: 7/9/05, p. 30: Available to subscribers at More junk makes for better dads).

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