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Inter-annual and inter-individual variations in survival exhibit strong seasonality in a hibernating rodent


Most research on the demography of wild animal populations has focused on characterizing the variation in the mortality of organisms as a function of intrinsic and environmental characteristics. However, such variation in mortality is difficult to relate to functional life history components (e.g. reproduction, dispersal, hibernation) due to the difficulty in monitoring biological processes at a sufficiently fine timescale. In this study, we used a 10-year individual-based data set with an infra-annual timescale to investigate both intra- and inter-annual survival patterns according to intrinsic and environmental covariates in an introduced population of a small hibernating rodent, the Siberian chipmunk. We compared three distinct periods related to particular life history events: spring reproduction, summer reproduction and hibernation. Our results revealed strong interactions between intrinsic and temporal effects. First, survival of male chipmunks strongly decreases during the reproduction periods, while survival is high and equal between sexes during hibernation. Second, the season of birth affects the survival of juveniles during their first hibernation, which does not have long-lasting consequences at the adult stage. Third, at an inter-annual scale, we found that high food resource availability before hibernation and low chipmunk densities specifically favour subsequent winter survival. Overall, our results confirm that the well-known patterns of yearly and inter-individual variation of mortality observed in animals are themselves strongly variable within a given year, suggesting that they are associated with various functional components of the animals’ life history.

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We are thankful to the Office National des Forêts, France for financial support and for allowing fieldwork in the La Faisanderie site (Sénart Forest, France). This work was also funded by the Conseil Régional d’Ile-de-France, the Conseil Départemental des Hauts-de-Seine and the Ministère de l’Ecologie, du Développement durable et de l’Energie. We are thankful to J. Marmet and M. Marsot for their contribution to the mark-recapture monitoring. We wish to thank J. E. Hines for his helpful explanations of RDSURVIV and CAPTURE software and A. Bel (Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières Ile-de-France) for sharing data on Champigny groundwater.

Author contribution statement

J. L. C. and B. P. conceived the monitoring design; J. L. C., B. P. and C. L. C. conducted the fieldwork; C. L. C., S. C. and A. R. analysed the data. C. L. C., S. C. and A. R. wrote the manuscript; other authors provided editorial advice.

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Correspondence to Christie Le Cœur.

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Communicated by Janne Sundell.

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Le Cœur, C., Chantepie, S., Pisanu, B. et al. Inter-annual and inter-individual variations in survival exhibit strong seasonality in a hibernating rodent. Oecologia 181, 795–807 (2016).

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  • Mark-recapture
  • Tamias sibiricus
  • Seasonal survival
  • Hibernation
  • Male-biased mortality