Temporal vs. spatial variation in stress-associated metabolites within a population of climate-sensitive small mammals Public Deposited

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  • Temporal variation in stress might signify changes in an animal’s internal or external environment, while spatial variation instress might signify variation in the quality of the habitats that individual animals experience. Habitat-induced variationsin stress might be easiest to detect in highly territorial animals, and especially in species that do not take advantage ofcommon strategies for modulating habitat-induced stress, such as migration (escape in space) or hibernation (escape intime). Spatial and temporal variation in response to potential stressors has received little study in wild animals, especiallyat scales appropriate for relating stress to specific habitat characteristics. Here, we use the American pika (Ochotona princeps),a territorial small mammal, to investigate stress response within and among territories. For individually territorial animalssuch as pikas, differences in habitat quality should lead to differences in stress exhibited by territory owners. We indexedstress using stress-associated hormone metabolites in feces collected non-invasively from pika territories every 2 weeks fromJune to September 2018.We hypothesized that differences in territory qualitywould lead to spatial differences in mean stressand that seasonal variation in physiology or the physical environment would lead to synchronous variation across territoriesthrough time.We used linear mixed-effects models to explore spatiotemporal variation in stress using fixed effects of day-ofyearand broad habitat characteristics (elevation, aspect, site), aswell as local variation in habitat characteristics hypothesizedto affect territory quality for this saxicolous species (talus depth, clast size, available forage types). We found that temporalvariation within territories was greater than spatial variation among territories, suggesting that shared seasonal stressors aremore influential than differences in individual habitat quality. This approach could be used in other wildlife studies to refineour understanding of habitat quality and its effect on individual stress levels as a driver of population decline.

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Journal Title
Journal Issue/Number
  • 1
Journal Volume
  • 9
Last Modified
  • 2021-05-11
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Peer Reviewed
  • 2051-1434


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