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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Population dynamics of Peromyscus maniculatus austerus and Microtus townsendii with supplementary food Taitt, Mary Joan


A number of field studies suggest that some vertebrate populations are limited by spacing behaviour, , Small mammals of the genus Peromyscus and Microtus exhibit spacing behaviour by possessing home ranges, but they have contrasting patterns of population fluctuation, Deermice (Peromyscus sp.) fluctuate annually but maintain fairly constant numbers from year to year, whereas voles (Microtus sp.) 'cycle', reaching peak densities every 2 to 5 years. One use of the home range is for food-gathering, Therefore, these experiments were designed to investigate the influence of food availability on the home range and population dynamics of local deermice and voles (P. maniculatus austerus and M. townsendii). The addition of food in late winter resulted in a doubling of the number of deermice. Immigration was 2.5 times that of an unfed control. This could be explained since resident deermice reduced the size of their home ranges. Deermice populations with extra food increased their reproductive output compared with controls: larger numbers of mice bred, and for longer periods, more young were recruited, they grew faster and reached sexual maturity earlier. It is suggested that the onset and cessation of breeding in deermice are proximate responses to food availability, Deermouse dynamics may be closely tied to the temporal and spatial availability of food through the spatial organisation of individuals. It is also suggested that females, because of their energy demands for lactation, and their influence on the survival of young, may be more sensitive to these food conditions and hence exert a strong influence on deermouse population dynamics. Vole populations with, low- and intermediate-levels of food peaked at twice the control density, and a population with a high-level of food reached seven times control density. Voles immigrated to established populations, and colonized vacant areas in proportion to the food available. Like deermice, residents reduced the size of their ranges. Breeding was enhanced in all fed vole populations. Omnivorous deermice had larger ranges than did the herbivorous voles, but both species responded to extra food by reducing their range size, so the smallest deermouse ranges were the size of large vole ranges. The results indicate that home range size in both species is responsive to food availability, and that the concentration of food in the 'typical' habitats of these small mammals is different. If, as suggested, the heterogeneity of deermouse-food in the forest results in an annual cycle in numbers, then the reduced heterogeneity of vole-food in grasslands may influence vole dynamics.

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