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Population dynamics of the northern short-tailed shrew, Blarina brevicauda: insights from a 25-year study

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Abstract:

The population demography of the northern short-tailed shrew, Blarina brevicauda (Say, 1823), was studied for 25 years in bluegrass, alfalfa, and tallgrass habitats in east-central Illinois. The population in bluegrass had higher over-winter population density, began increasing earlier in the year, peaked earlier in the year, had higher mean monthly densities and amplitudes of fluctuation, and remained higher for longer than did populations in alfalfa and tallgrass. Survival rates were greater in bluegrass and tallgrass than in alfalfa. The species displayed annual population fluctuations with little variation in amplitude among years in all three habitats. Seasonal reproduction appeared to be responsible for the annual fluctuations. Survival did not vary in relation to season, but was positively correlated with annual peak densities, whereas reproduction was not. There was no correlation between population densities of voles during April–August and annual peak densities of B. brevicauda. We conclude that annual fluctuations in B. brevicauda populations are driven by seasonal reproduction, while variation in mortality, most likely from predation, may explain differences in the amplitudes of annual peaks.

La démographie de la musaraigne à queue courte, Blarina brevicauda (Say, 1823), a été étudiée pendant 25 ans dans des habitats de pâturin, de luzerne et d'herbes hautes du centre-est de l'Illinois. La population vivant dans le pâturin possède une densité de population en hiver plus grande que les populations dans la luzerne ou les herbes hautes; de plus, elle commence à croître et atteint son maximum plus tôt dans l'année; elle a des densités moyennes mensuelles plus élevées et des fluctuations plus importantes et elle maintient sa densité élevée plus longtemps. Les taux de survie sont plus forts dans le pâturin et les herbes hautes que dans la luzerne. L'espèce subit des fluctuations annuelles de densité dont l'amplitude varie peu d'une année à l'autre dans les trois habitats. La reproduction saisonnière semble expliquer les fluctuations annuelles. La survie ne varie pas en fonction de la saison; en effet, la survie est en corrélation avec la densité maximale annuelle, mais la reproduction ne l'est pas. Il n'y a pas de corrélation entre les densités des populations de campagnols en avril–août et les densités maximales annuelles de B. brevicauda. En conclusion, les fluctuations annuelles de B. brevicauda s'expliquent par la reproduction saisonnière, alors que la variation de la mortalité, très vraisemblablement due à la prédation, peut expliquer les différences d'amplitude des maximums annuels.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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