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Daily responses of mouflon (Ovis gmelini musimon × Ovis sp.) activity to summer climatic conditions

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Investigating the factors shaping the activity of large herbivores is of prime importance because changes in their activity patterns may indicate physiological stress, which can affect reproduction and survival of individuals, and thereby population growth. Although climatic conditions are known to impact the activity patterns of large herbivores, few studies have investigated this relationship at a fine temporal scale. From a continuous monitoring of activity, we assessed the influence of temperature and wind on the summer activity of female mouflon ( Ovis gmelini musimon Pallas, 1811 × Ovis sp.) facing summer droughts. Females showed a marked bimodal activity pattern, with activity peaks occurring after dawn and before dusk. When temperature increased and wind speed decreased, the morning activity peak occurred earlier, while the evening activity peak was delayed. Hence, under stressing climatic conditions, female mouflon decreased their diurnal activity while increasing their nocturnal activity. However, this nocturnal increase did not prevent the activity rate over 24 h to decrease during hot nonwindy days compared with cool windy days. Although the occurrence of wind mitigated the negative influence of heat on the diurnal activity, wind had no effect at the daily scale. These findings emphasize the importance of working at different temporal scales when assessing the activity patterns of free-ranging vertebrates.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Université de Lyon, F-69000, Lyon; VetAgro Sup – Campus Vétérinaire de Lyon, 1 avenue Bourgelat, F-69280 Marcy l’Etoile, France, AND Université de Lyon, F-69000, Lyon; Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5558, Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, F-69622, Villeurbanne, France. 2: Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, Centre National d’Étude et de Recherche Appliquée sur la Faune de Montagne, Portes du soleil, 147 route de Lodève, F-34990 Juvignac, France. 3: Université de Toulouse, CNRS, ENFA, UMR 5174, Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, 118 Route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse, France. 4: Université de Lyon, F-69000, Lyon; Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5558, Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, F-69622, Villeurbanne, France.

Publication date: September 24, 2011

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