Reasons for arboreality in wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus and Bank voles Myodes glareolus
Buesching CD., Newman C., Twell R., Macdonald DW.
Although it is broadly accepted that small mammals often climb trees, only few studies explore arboreality in woodland rodents systematically. Here, we investigate the three-dimensional habitat use of wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus and bank voles Myodes glareolus at three different sites in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, under varying environmental conditions. A total of 12 trapping sessions was carried out between March and September 2003 and 2004. During each session, 100 Longworth live-traps with shrew escape holes were set in a 25-point-grid for 3 succeeding nights. Each time, 50 traps were placed on the ground, and 50 in surrounding trees at heights of 30-250 cm. Wood mice were significantly more arboreal than bank voles, and male wood mice spent significantly more time in trees than did females. Arboreality in bank voles occurred only under high population densities and food shortage, and both species were significantly more arboreal in woodland with dense understorey. Thus we conclude that while arboreality is predominantly a result of inter- and intra-specific competition, of the two species we studied, only wood mice, being more agile, can afford to utilize trees without getting caught by predators, and that sex differences are due to male territoriality. Estimates of population sizes and distribution, as well as studies of inter-specific interactions and socio-spatial behaviour are presumed to be affected by these results, and are currently likely to underestimate rodent numbers considerably. © 2007 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde.