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Individuals in space: personality-dependent space use, movement and microhabitat use facilitate individual spatial niche specialization

Schirmer, Annika, Herde, Antje, Eccard, Jana A., Dammhahn, Melanie
Oecologia 2019 v.189 no.3 pp. 647-660
Clethrionomys glareolus, automation, ecological competition, environmental impact, home range, microhabitats, niches, telemetry, vegetation cover, Germany
Personality-dependent space use and movement might be crucially influencing ecological interactions, giving way to individual niche specialization. This new approach challenges classical niche theory with potentially great ecological consequences, but so far has only scarce empirical support. Here, we investigated if and how consistent inter-individual differences in behavior predict space use and movement patterns in free-ranging bank voles (Myodes glareolus) and thereby contribute to individual niche specialization. Individuals were captured and marked from three different subpopulations in North-East Germany. Inter-individual differences in boldness and exploration were quantified via repeated standardized tests directly in the field after capture. Subsequently, space use and movement patterns of a representative sample of the behavioral variation (nā€‰=ā€‰21 individuals) were monitored via automated VHF telemetry for a period of four days, yielding on average 384 locations per individual. Bolder individuals occupied larger home ranges and core areas (estimated via kernel density analyses), moved longer distances, spatially overlapped with fewer conspecifics and preferred different microhabitats based on vegetation cover compared to shyer individuals. We found evidence for personality-dependent space use, movement, and occupation of individual spatial niches in bank voles. Thus, besides dietary niche specialization also spatial dimensions of ecological niches vary among individuals within populations, which may have important consequences for ecological interactions within- and between species.