, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 599-610
Date: 28 Jan 2012

Timing of breeding in Ochrotomys nuttalli and Peromyscus leucopus is related to a latitudinal isotherm

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Abstract

Previous comparative studies on patterns of reproduction in small-mammal species focus primarily on latitudinal differences in average litter size. Few studies compare reproductive patterns among northern and southern populations at the landscape scale. Our study compares differences in seasonal patterns of reproduction in northern and southern populations of the golden mouse, Ochrotomys nuttalli, and the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus. These are remarkably similar species with regard to bioenergetics, body mass, feeding behavior, home-range size, natural history, nest-site preference, and periods of activity. Both species also exhibit very similar intraspecific seasonal patterns of reproduction across their respective geographic ranges. We found that O. nuttalli and P. leucopus switch from a summer breeding season, extending from late spring through early autumn in the north to a winter breeding season extending from late autumn through early spring in the south, near the isotherm where mean annual temperature is 15.6°C (60°F), or approximately 35° N latitude. This latitudinal isotherm provides a geographic benchmark to address future changes in patterns of reproduction attributed to climate change. Findings also suggest that length of the breeding season and patterns of reproduction between species partially explain why P. leucopus is typically more abundant than O. nuttalli in similar habitat types.