Sigmodon hispidushabitat mosaic
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract This study describes the demographic features of a population of Sigmodon hispidus utilizing the habitat mosaic provided by a Carolina Bay on the Atlantic coastal plain of South Carolina. A total of 71 cotton rats were captured 160 times on a 4 ha grid during a winter decline from 25/ha to less that 1/ha. Body weights of adults declined until early February and then increased; those of subadults grew very slowly until February followed by a spurt in growth. Weight gain did not differ between survivors and non-survivors for males, but female survivors gained 1.5 g per week more than non-survivors. Female subadults exhibited higher mortality early in the decline and males later. Adult females were randomly distributed across 8 microhabitats, whereas adult males were almost exclusively confined to heavy Rubus cover. Subadult males used wet sites more than any other cohort; subadult females were widely distributed using drier sites most frequently. By the end of the decline, all survivors were localized in Rubus-dominated patches. No statistically significant changes in electromorph genotypes or allele frequencies were detected, but survivors had a higher frequency of the F-allele at the adenylate kinase locus than did non-survivors (42.3% vs. 16.7%). Our findings affirm the importance of a landscape perspective in understanding the population dynamics of cotton rats, and show how a habitat mosaic influences survival differentially among sex-age cohorts.
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