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Ecological Monographs








About 800 Microtus ochrogaster were live—trapped at biweekly intervals from May 1971 through March 1973 in 3 grassland study areas in eastern Kansas, USA. Details of reproduction were determined by autopsy. Population density increased through the first winter, reached a peak in April 1972, then declined sharply during that summer and beyond. Body length, but not body mass, tended to be positively related to density. Both sexes matured at about the same weight; development was somewhat prolonged during the winter months, especially in the winter preceding the population peak. Pregnancy rates were high, approaching maximal iteroparity, throughout the study, with intervals of nonbreeding in both Julys, and in August and December of the population decline. Embryo counts increased significantly during the months of peak density but did not diminish in the period of the population decline. There was no association between either maternal weight or parity and number of embryos. Corpora counts were not higher in heavy or multiparious ♀ ♀, nor did the level of prenatal mortality increase during the period of greatest density. Except for a few individuals taken in July and August 1971, ♂ ♂ with a mass 30 g or more were judged to be fertile, as were a majority of the 20 to 29—g ♂ ♂. Body weight and testes weight were significantly correlated in fertile ♂ ♂ but not in nonfertile ♂ ♂. These reproductive findings were applied to a model of population regulation of microtine cycles. The pattern of reproduction of Kansas and Indiana prairie voles was compared. Three concordant lines of evidence seem to indicate that Kansas and possibly other geographical populations of prairie voles have adjusted the breeding schedule to accommodate both hot and dry summers and cold, snowy winters. Pregnancy rate, litter size, and adjusted testes weight all show a significant increase in March–April and September–October and a decrease in midsummer and midwinter. Thus the pattern of reproduction of Kansas prairie voles may represent a composite of the patterns shown by the dry—adapted species, such as Microtus californicus, and the cold—adapted microtines, such as Microtus pennsylvanicus. Based on the observations of this study, Kansas prairie voles seem to have adjusted to both harsh seasons by breeding more or less continuously, with the midsummer depression possibly reflecting the Great Plains origin of the species, and the winter depression being a facultative response to weather, density, or quality of habitat.


© 1978 Ecological Society of America

Original Publication Citation

Rose, R. K., & Gaines, M. S. (1978). The reproductive cycle of Microtus ochrogaster in eastern Kansas. Ecological Monographs, 48(1), 21-42.


0000-0001-9341-1615 (Rose)


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