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Predation on Competing Rodent Species: A Simple Explanation of Complex Patterns

Ilkka Hanski and Heikki Henttonen
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 65, No. 2 (Mar., 1996), pp. 220-232
DOI: 10.2307/5725
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/5725
Page Count: 13
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Predation on Competing Rodent Species: A Simple Explanation of Complex Patterns
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Abstract

1. We extend a predator-prey model previously parameterized for voles and weasels to two prey species, a `Microtus' (field vole) type which is competitively superior to but more vulnerable to predation than a `Clethrionomys' (bank vole) type. 2. The model explains four patterns in the dynamics of multispecies rodent assemblages in Fennoscandia: a predictable shift in the relative abundances of different prey species during one multiannual population cycle; long-term (supracyclic) variation in relative prey abundances; an association between the amplitude of population oscillations and the type of the numerically dominant prey species; and increasing rodent species number with increasing latitude. 3. The model results illustrate the complex and often unexpected behaviour of strongly connected multispecies assemblages, of which the Fennoscandian rodent-predator community is a prime example. 4. Since the mid 1980s, rodent oscillations in many, though not all, parts of northern Fennoscandia have become distinctly less regular (non-cyclic), a change which is reflected in the entire animal community linked to the keystone species, the arvicoline rodents. We demonstrate that such long-term changes in the amplitude and regularity of rodent oscillations are not unexpected in multispecies prey-predator assemblages.

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