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Keywords:

  • Delayed density dependence;
  • life history;
  • Myodes glareolus;
  • population dynamics;
  • reciprocal transplant experiment

Abstract

Life-history traits are influenced by environmental factors throughout the lifespan of an individual. The relative importance of past versus present environment on individual fitness, therefore, is a relevant question in populations that face the challenge of temporally varying environment. We studied the interacting effects of past and present density on body mass, condition, and survival in enclosure populations of the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) using a reciprocal transplant design. In connection with the cyclic dynamics of natural vole populations, our hypothesis was that individuals born in low-density enclosures would do better overwintering in low-density enclosures than in high-density enclosures and vice versa. Our results show that the effect of summer (past) density was strong especially on survival and body mass. The response of body mass to summer density was negative in both winter (present) density groups, whereas the response of survival probability was nonlinear and differed between the winter density groups. In particular, our data show a trend for higher overwintering success of individuals originating from the lowest summer densities in low winter density and vice versa. We therefore conclude that the capacity of individuals to respond to a change in density was constrained by the delayed density-dependent effects of environment experienced in the past. These effects have the potential to contribute to vole population dynamics. Possible mechanisms mediating the effects of past environment into present performance include both intrinsic and environmental factors.