Happily together forever: temporal variation in spatial patterns and complete lack of territoriality in a promiscuous rodent


The availability of resources, their effect on population density and territoriality, and the ways in which these factors are interwoven with mating systems are important determinants of small mammal space use. It is often difficult to study these patterns in an integrated way, however, especially because long-term data are needed but not readily available. In this paper, we investigate effects of population density, season and breeding status on home range patterns of the promiscuous rodent Mastomys natalensis using monthly capture-mark-recapture data collected over 17 years in a 3-ha grid. Home ranges were estimated using minimum convex polygons bounded by trap locations, and home range overlap and visitation rates were calculated as a measure of territoriality. As higher population densities coincide with increased resource availability, we predicted that home range sizes would correlate negatively with density. Furthermore, as M. natalensis is promiscuous and population densities are generally high, we predicted that territoriality would be low, and home range overlap would therefore be high. Contrary to expectations the home ranges of female adults increased with population density, although those of male adults and subadults followed the expected decrease. Home range overlap and visitation rates were generally high, and increased significantly with population density. More importantly, they were never lower than those of simulated datasets consisting of randomly moved home ranges. These results therefore suggest that M. natalensis displays a complete lack of territoriality that is rarely seen in small mammals but still meets predictions based on knowledge of density and mating system.


Population Ecology 2014, Vol. 56: pp109–118


Absence of territoriality, Capturemark- recapture, Density-dependent, Home range, Mastomys natalensis