Agonistic behavior in three species of Microtus (M. canicaudus, M. oregoni, and M. townsendii) Public Deposited

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  • Agaonistic behavior in three species of Microtus (M. canicaudus, M. oregoni, and M. townsendii)
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  • Agonistic behavior among three species of Microtus live-trapped near Corvallis, Oregon was recorded in order to interpret habitat segregation by the species in areas of syrnpatry. The method used to measure agonistic interaction was similar to that of Colvin (1970). Agonistic behavior was recorded under red light in a neutral circular arena. Two observers recorded the frequency and duration of 14 behavioral components on an Ester line event recorder for a ten minute trial. To be classified a winner in an agonistic encounter, an individual had to show more exploration, and display more approaches, attacks, and offense than its opponent. Based on these criteria, a trial could be termed fraternal, dominant-subordinate, no decision, or mutual avoidance, the last occurring when species remained separated approximately 180° and moved only to counter the others movements. In interspecific contests in which a winner could be determined, M. oregoni and M. canicaudus males were dominant to M. townsendii males (P < 0.001). Dominance in one-one contests involving homologous pairs of M. canicaudus versus M. oregoni could not be resolved (P > 0.05). The frequency of mutual avoidance by the three species in interand intraspecific encounters was greater when M. townsendii was involved and suggested that habitat spacing by the three species may depend on mutual avoidance as well as aggressive interaction. In a behavioral experiment performed in the laboratory to measure effects of agonistic interaction on habitat segregation, it was found that M. townsendii and M. oregoni were more gregarious than M. canicaudus. Log records indicated that males of all three species displayed more solitary behavioral patterns than females. Movement was significantly restricted when two species were paired in comparison to their controls (P < 0. 05). M. canicaudus males tended to be least restricted in their explorations and were most aggressive or intolerant toward other species, inflicting heavy casualties on M. oregoni in particular. Few instances of long-term interspecific associations developed. Those which did occur often involved labeled subordinate members of either species.
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