Demographic and genetic attributes of dispersing and resident individuals of an enclosed Microtus pennsylvanicus population
Ross, Howard Alfred.
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A dispersal polymorphism may exist in emigrants from cyclic populations of Microtus '~nnsylvanicus biasing trap-revealed movements of unenclosed animals in favour of sedentary or colonizing individuals. The dispersal tendency of emigrants from an enclosed population was investigated by releasing animals via tubes into one of two adjacent enclosures, one vacant and one inhabited. Individuals from the enclosed population were monitored for age, sex, weight and electrophoretically detectable serum transferrin genotype in an intensive live-trapping program. In 1973 the minimum number alive in the introduced enclosed study population reached approximately l67/ha when breeding stopped in October. In 1974 intensive breeding increased the population density to 333/ha by mid-July when a long decline in numbers and breeding intensity began without an intervening plateau. An adjacent unenclosed area had a much lower density and longer breeding season in 1974. The growth rate of young males in the enclosed population tended to be lowest during the decline period in 1974. Survival of the enclosed population was high throughout but was lowest during the decline phase in both sexes, especially males. Low transferrin heterozygote survival during the decline coincided with a significant heterozygote deficiency in females whereas in males genotype frequencies did not depart from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium values throughout th.e study. Twenty-nine suitable ani.mals were released during the decline in five periods from July to November 1974. The proportions of males and transferrin heterozygotes in the released graun were generally greater than in the source population~ In the test enclosures 21% of the released animals continued their movement through the vacant area while 41% (no significant difference) moved through the inhabited enclosure. In the vacant test area, females had a greater tendency than males to continue dispersal whereas no difference was noted in the inhabited area. Low frequency of captures in the tubes, predator disturbances and cold weather forced the termination of the study. The role of dispersal as a population regulating mechanism was further substantiated. The genetic differences between emigrant and resident animals lend support to Howard's hypothesis that a genetic polymorphism influences the tendency to disperse. Support is also given to Myers' and Krebs' contention that among dispersers an additional density dependent polymorphism influences the distance dispersed.