Seasonal change in the daily timing of behaviour of the common vole, Microtus arvalis
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Seasonal effects on daily activity patterns in the common vole were established by periodic trapping in the field and continuous year round recording of running wheel and freeding activity in cages exposed to natural meteorological conditions.
Trapping revealed decreased nocturnality in winter as compared to summer. This was paralelled by a winter reduction in both nocturnal wheel running and feeding time in cages.
Frequent trap checks revealed a 2 h rhythm in daytime catches in winter, not in summer. Cage feeding activity in daytime was always organized in c. 2 h intervals, but day-to-day variations in phase blurred the rhythm in summer in a summation of individual daily records. Thus both seasonal and short-term temporal patterns are consistent between field trappings and cage feeding records.
Variables associated with the seasonal change in daily pattern were: reproductive state (sexually active voles more nocturnal), age (juveniles more nocturnal), temperature (cold days: less nocturnal), food (indicated by feeding experiments), habitat structure (more nocturnal in habitat with underground tunnels).
Minor discrepancies between field trappings and cage feeding activity can be explained by assuming increased trappability of voles in winter. Cage wheel running is not predictive of field trapping patterns and is thought to reflect behavioral motivations not associated with feeding but with other activities (e.g., exploratory, escape, interactive behaviour) undetected by current methods, including radiotelemetry and passage-counting.
Winter decrease in nocturnality appears to involve a reduction in nocturnal non-feeding and feeding behaviour and is interpreted primarily as an adaptation to reduce energy expenditure in adverse but socially stable winter conditions.
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