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Breeding characteristics of the Lusitanian pine vole, Microtus lusitanicus

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Little is known about the breeding characteristics of the Lusitanian pine vole, Microtus lusitanicus, a Terricola representative from south-western Europe. The scarce information on this subject is surprising since, as with other arvicolines, in high population densities these animals can be agricultural pests. In this study we report on the reproduction of the species in a locality of El Bierzo (province of León, northwestern Spain), a zone where this vole frequently damages orchards, crops, and vegetable gardens. The sample analysed consisted of approximately 300 specimens, captured by farmers over several years, which were donated to us for study. Results revealed that reproduction in this population probably occurs all year round, although sexual activity could be slightly lower in winter. In males and females monthly mean of adult body mass did not vary significantly during the year. Sexual monomorphism in adult body size, the relatively small testes of mature males, and the balanced sex ratio observed both in non-mature and mature specimens suggest that in this population M. lusitanicus has a monogamous mating system. In general, mean litter size increased with body mass (age) and showed a seasonal variation, with significantly higher values in spring than in autumn. In comparison with other Microtus species, the mean litter size found in M. lusitanicus was low, indicative of a K-selection pattern.

Affiliations: 1: Departament de Biologia Animal, de Biologia Vegetal i d'Ecologia, Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193-Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain; 2: Galemia Proyectos, Hoyo de Manzanares, Madrid, Spain


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