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Activity and space patterns of Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) suggest non-aggressive and non-territorial behaviour

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The Pyrenean desman is considered a flagship species for biodiversity and evolution. However, its scientific knowledge is still under development and currently on debate, particularly in relation to its behavioural ecology and social organization. Based on the previous hypothesis of individual desmans being solitary and territorial, activity and space patterns were considered to be arranged to avoid conspecifics. However, recent insights into the species’ social behaviour revealed non-interspecific avoidance. With this study, we provide novel insights into the activity and space patterns of the desman, and their relation to its social behaviour. A total of 30 individuals were trapped, 18 of which provided informative radiotracking data to study (1) activity behaviour, (2) the proportion of the home range utilized and the distances travelled, and (3) the dominant movement directionality. Activity and space use patterns were affected by daylight and seasonality, but not by sex, age or number of other conspecifics sharing the home range. In contrast to the previous observations, individuals did not show a pattern of directionality in their movements. Noticeably, we observed encounters between individuals without evidence of aggressive behaviour. Our results suggest that desmans do not alter their activity or their spatial behaviour to avoid encounters with conspecifics, as previously suggested. These novel findings provide more evidence of a social structure and organization with social interactions and non-aggressive behaviour. This is of relevance for management actions and for the conservation of this endemic mammal.

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The authors are grateful to Francisco Mañas, an accredited vet, for his collaboration during the trapping campaigns. We also thank the Official Consultant from the Ministry of the Environment. The project was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Livestock, Fishing, Food and the Environment (programme no. BOS 2003-08823-CO3-01), the Ministry of Science and the Generalitat de Catalunya (programme no. 2001SGR0088). The research permit numbers provided by the Catalonian Government were: SF/159, SF/073 and SF/178 for 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Y. Melero.

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Communicated by C. Gortázar

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Melero, Y., Aymerich, P., Santulli, G. et al. Activity and space patterns of Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) suggest non-aggressive and non-territorial behaviour. Eur J Wildl Res 60, 707–715 (2014).

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