• Open Access

Survival rates in a small hibernator, the edible dormouse: a comparison across Europe


  • Karin Lebl,

  • Claudia Bieber,

  • Peter Adamík,

  • Joanna Fietz,

  • Pat Morris,

  • Andrea Pilastro,

  • Thomas Ruf

K. Lebl (Karin.Lebl@vetmeduni.ac.at), C. Bieber and T. Ruf, Research Inst. of Wildlife Ecology, Univ. of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Savoyenstrasse 1, AT-1160 Vienna, Austria. – P. Adamík, Dept of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Palacký Univ., Tř. Svobody 26, CZ-771 46 Olomouc, Czech Republic. – J. Fietz, Inst. of Experimental Ecology, Univ. of Ulm, Albert Einstein Allee 11, DE-89069 Ulm, Germany. – P. Morris, School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway Univ. of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK. – A. Pilastro, Dept of Biology, Univ. of Padova, Via U.Bassi 58/B, IT-35121 Padova, Italy.


Understanding how local environmental factors lead to temporal variability of vital rates and to plasticity of life history tactics is one of the central questions in population ecology. We used long-term capture-recapture data from five populations of a small hibernating rodent, the edible dormouse Glis glis, collected over a large geographical range across Europe, to determine and analyze both seasonal patterns of local survival and their relation to reproductive activity. In all populations studied, survival was lowest in early summer, higher in late summer and highest during hibernation in winter. In reproductive years survival was always lower than in non-reproductive years, and females had higher survival rates than males. Very high survival rates during winter indicate that edible dormice rarely die from starvation due to insufficient energy reserves during the hibernation period. Increased mortality in early summer was most likely caused by high predation risk and unmet energy demands. Those effects have probably an even stronger impact in reproductive years, in which dormice were more active. Although these patterns could be found in all areas, there were also considerable differences in average survival rates, with resulting differences in mean lifetime reproductive success between populations. Our results suggest that edible dormice have adapted their life history strategies to maximize lifetime reproductive success depending on the area specific frequency of seeding events of trees producing energy-rich seeds.