Prairie Voles: The Social Drinkers of the Rodent World

By Joseph Calamia | July 12, 2010 12:30 pm

fieldvoleMice might turn up their noses at alcohol, but not the prairie vole. This usually upstanding rodent, famous for mating for life and sharing pup-raising duties, apparently likes a stiff drink.

“They not only drink alcohol, they prefer it over water,” Allison Anacker, a neuroscience graduate student at Oregon Health & Science University told The Oregonian.

Anacker, working under behavioral neuroscience professor Andrey Ryabinin, was looking for a model organism to study some humans’ troubled relationship with alcohol. Mice and rats fail in this role–it’s unusual to find ones that want even a sip of the stuff.

In a study published in Addiction Biology last month, Ryabinin’s team records the drunken misadventures of prairie voles. After chugging their preferred 6 percent alcohol drink (about the equivalent of beer), some thirsty voles shoved off parental responsibilities and even walked out on their mates. Though some drank responsibility, others drank to excess, stumbling away from the bar/spiked water bottle.

The study suggests that like humans, the voles also make drinking buddies, seemingly encouraging each other to have another. When caged together, the voles appear to match one another drink for drink, a practice that apparently has nothing to do with who’s buying the next round.

Related content:
Discoblog: “Drunk” Parrots Fall From the Trees in Australia
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Anticipated versus actual alcohol consumption during 21st birthday celebrations.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Beer Consumption Increases Human Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes.
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Pocket science – sperm races and poison-stealing voles
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Of voles and men: exploring the genetics of commitment

Image: flickr / Gilles Gonthier / field vole

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