Little is known about the behavior of male and female rodents at parturition. We documented behavior during and immediately after parturition in prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster), a species characterized by extensive biparental care during the preweaning period. To assess the role of males in parturition and their effect on maternal behavior, we studied parturient behavior of male–female pairs and females recently separated from their mates. We studied 12 births under seminatural conditions. For each birth, we scored behavior beginning with birth of the 1st offspring, using 3 h of continuous videotape records. Time from birth of the 1st offspring to birth of the last was always <1 h. Female prairie voles were aggressive toward their mates and effectively excluded them from the nest for most, if not all, of the period of parturition. Thus, measures of parental behavior were much higher for females than for males in breeding pairs. Females permitted males back into the nest about 1 day after parturition. The behavior at parturition of paired and single females was similar. Our data indicate that females may limit the role of males in parturition and care of newborn young, even in species with extensive paternal investment.
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