Acta Theriologica

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 165–171 | Cite as

Non-invasive methods of separating hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) age classes and an investigation into the age structure of road kill

  • Amy Haigh
  • Martina Kelly
  • Fidelma Butler
  • Ruth M. O’Riordan
Original Paper

Abstract

The separation of animals into age classes is often fraught with difficulties, but is essential for the interpretation of survival rates and population structure. This study investigated both live hedgehogs and road kill in order to develop techniques that could be utilised to separate age classes in the field. Body measurements were taken from 24 live hedgehogs caught at a site in County Cork, Ireland over a three year period. Additionally, carcasses from around Ireland were collected and measured. There was a significant correlation between the weight and hind foot length of both live and dead hedgehogs. The weight of individuals was also significantly correlated with the body length and jaw length of hedgehogs. In all of these correlations, the sample clustered clearly into two groups with ‘juveniles’ meeting all of the following criteria: a hind foot length of <3.6 cm, a body length of < 16 cm and a jaw length of below 4.5 cm. It is suggested that these parameters, combined with the presence of growing spines, could provide a way of separating age classes in the field. This would be of particular benefit to short term studies, allowing the population structure to be accurately assessed and the reproductive success and sustainability of a population to be investigated. Road kill were also aged using the dentary bone in order to investigate the age profiles of hedgehogs killed on the road. Amongst those killed, 54 % of hedgehogs were 1-year-old or less. The majority of hedgehogs (87 %) were between 0–3-years-old, the oldest females were nine (n = 2), and the oldest males were eight years old (n = 2), respectively. Road kill hedgehogs had an average longevity of 1.94 years, and the mean age of females was higher (2.10 years) than males (1.87 years).

Keywords

Hedgehogs Ageing techniques Morphometrics Periosteal growth lines Road kill Longevity 

Supplementary material

13364_2013_142_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 25 kb)

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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Haigh
    • 1
  • Martina Kelly
    • 1
  • Fidelma Butler
    • 1
  • Ruth M. O’Riordan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES)University College CorkCorkIreland

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