Reproductive potential of a vole pest (Arvicola scherman) in Spanish apple orchards

Aitor Somoano, Marcos Miñarro, Jacint Ventura

Abstract


Fossorial water voles, Arvicola scherman, feed on tree roots causing important damages in European apple orchards. Since the intensity of crop damage produced by rodents ultimately depends on their inherent capacity to increase their population, the main goal of this study was to determine the reproductive potential of the subspecies A. scherman cantabriae in apple orchards from Asturias (NW Spain), where voles breed over the whole year. Our results were compared with those reported for the subspecies A. scherman monticola from the Spanish Pyrenees (where reproduction ceases in winter). Sexual characteristics, body condition, relative age class and number of embryos were recorded from 422 females caught in apple orchards along two years. We found pregnant females all along the year, which were able to produce a high number of litters per year (7.30) although litter size was relatively moderate (first year: 3.87 embryos/female; second year: 3.63 embryos/females). The potential number of pups per female and year (first year: 28.25; second year: 26.50) was substantially higher than that reported for Pyrenean voles, what is probably related with differences in the length of the breeding season and in life histories between subspecies. In our population, the number of implanted embryos correlated positively with the body condition of the mother. Our results reveal that management efforts should not be seasonal as they used to be so far and invite to explore the physiological consequences of management practices.


Keywords


Arvicola scherman cantabriae; body condition; litter size; reproduction; rodent pest; fossorial water voles

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References


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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2016144-9870