European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 57–62 | Cite as

A new method for assessing food quality in common vole (Microtus arvalis) populations

  • Eva JanovaEmail author
  • Josef Bryja
  • David Cizmar
  • Ladislav Cepelka
  • Marta Heroldova
Original Paper


Food quality is an important factor influencing the demography of small rodents. While there have been numerous studies on food supply during small mammal population cycles, studies on quality of food consumed are rare due to technical difficulties in estimating nitrogen in small samples, such as stomachs or faeces. In this study, we use a new method, near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS), for estimating nitrogenous compounds (NC) in stomachs of common voles (Microtus arvalis). Samples were taken from two populations over two 3-year periods. Vegetation cover (managed alfalfa/set-aside field), and thus also food supply, differed significantly between the two periods. In analysing the effects of food supply and individual attributes (i.e. sex, body size, reproduction) on NC in stomachs, we were able to show that nitrogen varied uniformly and that sex, body size and season had no effect. No significant difference in NC intake was observed between the two study periods, despite individuals being smaller and the population less abundant during the second period. During the peak densities, however, reproducing females consumed food with a significantly higher level of nitrogen than all other individuals. Our results indicate that changes in food supply do not affect the overall quality of food consumed but that maintenance of nutritional quality may require higher energetic release, which may affect body condition. We confirm that NIRS represents a useful new tool opening new possibilities in small-mammal ecology studies.


NIRS Nitrogen Rodent Food quality Food supply 



This study was supported by Project 521/08/P529 of the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (Czech Science Foundation). We would like to thank Jiri Kamler for his efficient help with nitrogen analysis. All work in this study complied with the Council Directive 86/609/EEC—regulations on the experimental use of animals. In addition, the approval for all field experiments within this project was obtained from the ethical committee of the Academy of Sciences. We thank Dr. Kevin Roche for improving the English language and for commenting the earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Janova
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Josef Bryja
    • 1
    • 4
  • David Cizmar
    • 5
  • Ladislav Cepelka
    • 6
  • Marta Heroldova
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate BiologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Institute of Animal GeneticsVeterinary and Pharmaceutical UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  3. 3.CEITEC-VFUUniversity of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical SciencesBrnoCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of ScienceMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  5. 5.Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in AgricultureBrnoCzech Republic
  6. 6.Department of Forest Protection and Wildlife ManagementMendel University in BrnoBrnoCzech Republic

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