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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 9–17 | Cite as

Dynamics of social nesting in overwintering meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus): possible consequences for population cycling

  • Dale M. Madison
  • Randall W. FitzGerald
  • William J. McShea
Article

Summary

A small population of meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) in a field enclosure was studied from August to February in Apalachin, New York, USA. Radiotelemetry provided direct measures of intraspecific spacing and social nesting through the fall-winter transition. Data on weather and predation were collected concurrently. A total of 32 voles were radiotracked during 6 tracking sessions, with an average of 17.3 voles (11 to 25 range) tracked per session (Figs. 1, 2a). Discrete social nesting “constellations” first occurred during October, primarily as a result of the formation of extended maternal families (Figs. 1, 2e). Recruitment of adult males and offspring into these early nesting groups was male biased. The average number of voles in these groupings varied from 3.2 (Jan; 3–4 range) to 7.0 (Oct; 4–10 range); but the average number of voles that slept together at any given time, the nesting “cluster,” remained steady at 2.4 (2–5 range) (Fig. 2e). During late December and early January under the protection of snow, many voles shifted their home areas and nesting affiliations with the result that non-lineage nesting constellations formed (Fig. 1, 3). The thermoregulatory benefits of huddling and the threat of predation appear to be important governors of movement, group formation and dispersion. The existence of an optimum group size produces and “Allee Effect” that may contribute importantly to population lows and multi-annual cycles.

Keywords

Direct Measure Group Size Adult Male Small Population Group Formation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dale M. Madison
    • 1
  • Randall W. FitzGerald
    • 1
  • William J. McShea
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesState University of New York at BinghamtonBinghamtonUSA

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