Patterns and processes of dispersal behaviour in arvicoline rodents



    1. CNRS – UMR 7625, Laboratoire Ecologie-Evolution, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Case 237, 7 Quai St Bernard, 75005 Paris, France
    2. CNRS/ENS UMS 3194, CEREEP – Ecotron IleDeFrance, École Normale Supérieure, 78 rue du Château, 77140 St-Pierre-lès-Nemours, France
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    1. Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences, Hedmark University College, Campus Evenstad, Anne Evenstadsvei 80, NO-2480 Koppang, Norway
    2. Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066, Blindern, Oslo NO-0316, Norway
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  • ROLF A. IMS,

    1. Institutt for Arctic and Marine Biologi, Universitetty of Tromsø, 9073 Tromsø, Norway
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    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ Aberdeen, UK
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Jean-François Le Galliard, Fax: +33-(0)1-44273516; E-mail:


A good understanding of mammalian societies requires measuring patterns and comprehending processes of dispersal in each sex. We investigated dispersal behaviour in arvicoline rodents, a subfamily of mammals widespread in northern temperate environments and characterized by a multivoltine life cycle. In arvicoline rodents, variation in life history strategies occurs along a continuum from precocial to delayed maturation that reflects seasonal and ecological fluctuations. We compared dispersal across and within species focusing on the effects of external (condition-dependent) and internal (phenotype-dependent) factors. Our data revealed substantial, unexplained variation between species for dispersal distances and a strong variation within species for both dispersal distance and fraction. Some methodological aspects explained variation across studies, which cautions against comparisons that do not control for them. Overall, the species under consideration display frequent short-distance dispersal events and extremely flexible dispersal strategies, but they also have hitherto unexpected capacity to disperse long distances. Female arvicolines are predominantly philopatric relative to males, but we found no clear association between the mating system and the degree of sex bias in dispersal across species. Dispersal is a response to both various proximate and ultimate factors, including competition, inbreeding avoidance, mate searching and habitat quality. In particular, our review suggests that costs and benefits experienced during transience and settlement are prime determinants of condition dependence. Patterns of phenotype-dependent dispersal are idiosyncratic, except for a widespread association between an exploration/activity syndrome and natal dispersal. Consequences for population dynamics and genetic structures are discussed.