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Dispersing Siberian flying squirrels (Pteromys volans) locate preferred habitats in fragmented landscapes

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In fragmented landscapes, dispersal abilities determine the potential of a species to colonize temporally unoccupied habitats. For example in territorial species, even the high-quality sites will be temporally unoccupied between the death of residents and recolonization by dispersers. This has implications for conservation management, because whether or not unoccupied habitats are worthy of protecting depends on likelihood that these sites will be recolonized in the near future. We analysed the ability of dispersing Siberian flying squirrels (Pteromys volans (L., 1758)) to locate the preferred habitats. Dispersers encountered many patches of preferred habitat and, in the end, a majority of them successfully settled in these patches. The dispersal distance increased with increasing distance between patches, but settlement in preferred patches and short-term mortality were independent of dispersal distance or distance between available patches. We conclude that dispersers were effective in locating the preferred habitat in fragmented landscapes. Indeed, large interpatch distances partly explain that dispersal distances are longer in flying squirrels than usually observed in similar-sized mammals. For conservation management, our findings encourage managers to protect temporally unoccupied, high-quality habitats in addition to occupied habitats to promote a sustainable habitat network in space and time.

Keywords: Pteromys volans; coût de la dispersion; dispersal cost; habitat network; habitat selection; ideal-free distribution; répartition libre idéale; réseau d’habitats; sélection d’habitats

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Section of Ecology, FI-20014 University of Turku, Finland. 2: Finnish Museum of Natural History, P.O. Box 17, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

Publication date: July 19, 2012

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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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