• Allelic richness;
  • effective population size;
  • genetic diversity;
  • Myodes glareolus;
  • private alleles;
  • rodent cycles


Conspicuous cyclic changes in population density characterize many populations of small northern rodents. The extreme crashes in individual number are expected to reduce the amount of genetic variation within a population during the crash phases of the population cycle. By long-term monitoring of a bank vole (Myodes glareolus) population, we show that despite the substantial and repetitive crashes in the population size, high heterozygosity is maintained throughout the population cycle. The striking population density fluctuation in fact only slightly reduced the allelic richness of the population during the crash phases. Effective population sizes of vole populations remained also relatively high even during the crash phases. We further evaluated potential mechanisms contributing to the genetic diversity of the population and found that the peak phases are characterized by both a change in spatial pattern of individuals and a rapid accession of new alleles probably due to migration. We propose that these events act together in maintaining the high genetic diversity within cyclical populations.