Voles (Microtus) are some of the most familiar rodents in North America, but they are often mistaken for mice. Like mice, they are small and furry, but they have stockier bodies and smaller ears. The range of behaviors among various species of vole is much more extreme than their rodent cousins. Some vole species are solitary and stay in isolated burrows. Other voles live sociably in communities, displaying affection and constantly communicating with one another. The lone vole species will seek many mates, while the gentler, more social voles mate for life. Neurophysiological researchers found a chemical responsible for the difference in behaviors. The level of oxytocin, an important bonding chemical in humans, varies significantly between vole species. Aggressiveness and gentleness are influenced biologically from this and other chemicals in mammals.
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