Acta Theriologica

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 483–492 | Cite as

The diet of field volesMicrotus agrestis at low population density in upland Britain

  • Philip Wheeler
Article

Abstract

Studies on field volesMicrotus agrestis Linnaeus, 1758 in lowland grasslands have shown them to be unselective grazers. The diet of the field vole in upland Britain was investigated using feeding trials with four of the dominant British upland monocots,Molinia caerulea,Nardus stricta, Deschampsia flexuosa and Eriophorum vaginatum. The suitability of faecal analysis was assessed and then used to analyse the diet of wild voles from faecal samples. Percentages of plant species in the faeces were compared to percentages on the ground in sites dominated byMolinia caerulea, Eriophorum vaginatum,Nardus stricta andCalluna vulgaris. Significant preferences for the grassDeschampsia flexuosa were observed in feeding trials and in the wild while the sedgeEriophorum vaginatum was avoided in both. There was no clear preference forMolinia caerulea andNardus stricta. Preference for plant species was related to palatability and nutrient content. The low nutrient conditions in British uplands mean that voles that live in these environments must be selective feeders to maximise nutrient intake.

Key words

Microtus agrestis diet selection faecal analysis cafeteria tests 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aebischer N. J., Robertson P. A. and Kenward R. E. 1993. Compositional analysis of habitat use from animal radio-tracking data. Ecology 74: 1313–1325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aitchison J. 1986. The statistical analysis of compositional data. Chapman and Hall, New York: 1–416.Google Scholar
  3. Chadwick M. J. 1960.Nardus stricta L. Journal of Ecology 48: 255–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chitty D., Pimentel D. and Krebs C. J. 1968. Food supply of overwintered voles. Journal of Animal Ecology 37: 113–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dyczkowski J. and Yalden D. W. 1998. An estimate of the impact of predators on the British field vole (Microtus agrestis) population. Mammal Review 28: 165–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Evans D. M. 1973. Seasonal variations in the body composition and nutrition of the voleMicrotus agrestis. Journal of Animal Ecology 42: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Faber J. and Ma W. 1986. Observations on seasonal dynamics in diet consumption of the field voleMicrotus agrestis with some methodological remarks. Acta Theriologica 31: 479–490.Google Scholar
  8. Ferns P. N. 1979. Growth, reproduction and residency in a declining population ofMicrotus agrestis. Journal of Animal Ecology 48: 739–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hansson L. 1970. Methods of morphological diet micro-analysis in small rodents. Oikos 21: 255–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hansson L. 1971. Habitat, food and population dynamics of the field voleMicrotus agrestis in south Sweden. Viltrevy 8: 267–378.Google Scholar
  11. Harris S., Morris P., Wray S. and Yalden D. 1995. A review of British mammals: Population estimates and conservation status of British mammals other than cetaceans. JNCC, Peterborough: 1–216.Google Scholar
  12. Hjalten J., Danell K. and Ericson L. 1996. Food selection by two vole species in relation to plant growth strategies and plant chemistry. Oikos 76: 181–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kirkham F. W. 2001. Nitrogen uptake and nutrient limitation in six hill moorland species in relation to atmospheric nitrogen deposition in England and Wales. Journal of Ecology 89: 1041–1053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Krebs J. R. and Davies N. B. 1993. An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology. Blackwell Science, Oxford: 1–420.Google Scholar
  15. Magurran A. 1988. Ecological Diversity and its Measurement. Croom Helm, London: 1–179.Google Scholar
  16. Manly B. F. J., Macdonald L. L., Thomas D. L., McDonald T. L. and Erickson W. P. 2002. Resource selection by animals: Statistical design and analysis for field studies. Kluwer Academic, London: 1–221.Google Scholar
  17. Phillipson J., Sarrazincomans M. and Stomatopoulos C. 1983. Food-consumption byMicrotus agrestis and the unsuitability of fecal analysis for the determination of food preference. Acta Theriologica 28: 397–416.Google Scholar
  18. Ranson R. M. 1934. The field vole (Microtus) as a laboratory animal. Journal of Animal Ecology 3: 70–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Scurfield G. 1954.Deschampsia flexuosa (L.) Trin. Journal of Ecology 42: 225–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Turchin P. and Batzli O. G. 2001. Availability of food and the population dynamics of arvicoline rodents. Ecology 82: 1521–1534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wheeler P. 2002. The distribution of mammals across the upland landscape. PhD thesis, University of Manchester, Manchester: 1–250.Google Scholar
  22. Williams O. 1962. A technique for studying microtine food habits. Journal of Mammalogy 43: 365–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Bialowieza, Poland 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Wheeler
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ManchesterSchool of Biological SciencesUK

Personalised recommendations