Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 597–607 | Cite as

Territory and group sizes in Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber): echoes of settlement and reproduction?

  • Ruairidh D. Campbell
  • Frank Rosell
  • Bart A. Nolet
  • Vilmar A. A. Dijkstra
Original Article


According to current theories of territoriality, an animal is expected to defend the smallest area that can provide resources for maximisation of reproduction, known as the ‘economically defendable’ area. In group territorial species however, the strategies behind resource defence are likely to be more complex with corporate territoriality, cooperative breeding, delayed dispersal and intra-group competition all potentially playing a role. Here we examined group territoriality in a social herbivorous rodent, the Eurasian beaver Castor fiber. Beavers in our study do not inhabit economically defendable territories. Instead the sequence of arrival of pairs into unoccupied areas seems to play a more important role in determining the size of the territory, whereas group size is determined by past reproductive success. We argue that the settlement pattern and reproductive history have a lasting impact in the territorial system of beavers due to a combination of the low adult mortality, high dispersal costs, and avoidance of resource depletion.


Prospective resource defence Resource depletion Territory size Cooperative breeding Delayed dispersal Territorial inheritance Habitat quality 



We thank Staatsbosbeheer and especially Dirk Fey for logistic support, and Jon M. Arnemo, Roy de Beijer, Frode Bergan, Erik Boereboom, Mieuw van Diedenhoven, Bjørnar Hovde, Birgit Ranheim, Fiona Sharpe, Liat Romme Thomsen, and Bart Weel for excellent help in the field. Ruben van de Brink and Jan Vink collected the scent marking data in the Biesbosch in 1998, and we thank Freek Niewold (Alterra) for permission to use these data. We thank Diana Bell, and Andrew Watkinson for supervision, Ian Lake and Harald Klempe for GIS support, Odd Vevle for botanical knowledge, Paul Johnson for statistical advice and Paul Johnson, Hanna Kokko, Dominic Johnson and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The study was financially supported by IBN-DLO, Staatsbosbeheer, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and Telemark University College. This is publication 3546 of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and publication 386 of the Centre for Wetland Ecology. The experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruairidh D. Campbell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Frank Rosell
    • 3
    • 4
  • Bart A. Nolet
    • 5
  • Vilmar A. A. Dijkstra
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaUK
  2. 2.Present address: Wildlife Conservation Research UnitUniversity of OxfordTubneyUK
  3. 3.Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Environmental and Health StudiesTelemark University CollegeNorway
  4. 4.Bø i Telemark and Department of ZoologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  5. 5.Department of Plant-Animal InteractionsNetherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)BG MaarssenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Vereniging voor Zoogdierkunde en Zoogdierbescherming (VZZ)ArnhemThe Netherlands

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