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Winter huddling groups in the striped mouse.


Schradin, C; Schubert, M; Pillay, N (2006). Winter huddling groups in the striped mouse. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 84(5):693-698.

Abstract

Huddling is a strategy to avoid heat loss and thus save energy and is often observed in birds and rodents, which, because of their small body size, are prone to relatively high heat loss. Huddling might thus explain group-living in some cases, such as the winter huddling groups described for several northern hemisphere rodents. Here we describe winter huddling groups in an African rodent, the striped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio (Sparrman, 1784)), from the Succulent Karoo of South Africa. Striped mice were radio-tracked and observed directly in the field. The importance of huddling in this species was demonstrated by comparing data collected over 2 years. The 2003 winter was characterized by a severe drought and 99% mortality. As a result, close kin were mainly unavailable and striped mice slept in non-kin huddling groups. In 2004, normal winter rainfall occurred, mortality was only 50%, and striped mice formed family groups that shared a nest at night. While family groups were stable in 2004, non-kin huddling groups in 2003 were highly flexible and often
changed from night to night. Huddling groups are important for striped mice to save energy, and the instability of non-kin
sleeping groups indicates that the potential for conflict is higher between non-kin than between kin and that there is a trade-off between thermoregulatory requirements and kin selection.

Huddling is a strategy to avoid heat loss and thus save energy and is often observed in birds and rodents, which, because of their small body size, are prone to relatively high heat loss. Huddling might thus explain group-living in some cases, such as the winter huddling groups described for several northern hemisphere rodents. Here we describe winter huddling groups in an African rodent, the striped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio (Sparrman, 1784)), from the Succulent Karoo of South Africa. Striped mice were radio-tracked and observed directly in the field. The importance of huddling in this species was demonstrated by comparing data collected over 2 years. The 2003 winter was characterized by a severe drought and 99% mortality. As a result, close kin were mainly unavailable and striped mice slept in non-kin huddling groups. In 2004, normal winter rainfall occurred, mortality was only 50%, and striped mice formed family groups that shared a nest at night. While family groups were stable in 2004, non-kin huddling groups in 2003 were highly flexible and often
changed from night to night. Huddling groups are important for striped mice to save energy, and the instability of non-kin
sleeping groups indicates that the potential for conflict is higher between non-kin than between kin and that there is a trade-off between thermoregulatory requirements and kin selection.

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11 citations in Web of Science®
13 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2006
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:16
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:14
Publisher:National Research Council Canada
ISSN:0008-4301
Additional Information:Copyright: NRC Research Press
Publisher DOI:10.1139/Z06-048
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-573

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