Distribution of a Boreal Rodent Linked to a Lobe of the Wisconsinan Glaciation

By Jannett, Frederick J., Jr.; Christian, Donald P. | The American Midland Naturalist, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Distribution of a Boreal Rodent Linked to a Lobe of the Wisconsinan Glaciation


Jannett, Frederick J., Jr., Christian, Donald P., The American Midland Naturalist


INTRODUCTION

Knowledge of the geographic range of a species is fundamental to understanding its ecology (MacArthur, 1972; Gaston, 2009; Heads, 2015), spéciation and adaptadon (Mayr, 1963; Geber, 2011), management (Soulé, 1986), and responses to climate change (Parmesan, 2001; Walther et al, 2002; Post, 2013). Many distributions reflect the clear imprint of the late Wisconsinan glaciation (Smith, 1957), such as the relictual distributions of the southern bog lemming (Synaptomys coopen) (Wetzel, 1955; Connor, 1959) and the persistence of the boreal red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi) on mountaintops in New Mexico (Bailey, 1932).

The rock vole (yellow-nosed vole, Microtus chrotorrhinus) has a broad geographic range (Fig. 1) from Labrador to Tennessee and west across Canada to northeastern Minnesota (Kirkland andjannett, 1982; Lansing, 2005) and is most commonly associated with talus. It is generally considered to be a boreal species (e.g., Hoffmann and Koeppl, 1985), and its known localities in Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia are in cool damp higher elevational habitats of the Appalachian Mountains. The species is generally considered rare or uncommon in much of its range (Kirkland and Jannett, 1982) and until 1996 was accorded "Special Concern" status in Minnesota (Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988). Its presence in Minnesota has been enigmatic. After the first specimen was captured near Bumtside Lake, the exact site unknown, in northern St. Louis County in 1921 (Swanson et al, 1945; Handley, 1954), the species was not documented again until the 1970s, when specimens were taken at two localities in Cook County in extreme northeastern Minnesota (Timm, 1974; Buech et al, 1977). The paucity of distributional records continued despite extensive field work in Cook County in the 1970s (Timm, 1975) and unsuccessful attempts to document its presence at the original locality (Buech et al, 1977; Nordquist and Birney, 1988; J. Daniels, K. Rusterholtz, pers. comm.). Then, in the early 1980s specimens were collected at 59 sites in Cook Co. and one in Lake Co. by Christian and Daniels (1985), and in one other area in Cook Co. by Etnier (1989). The only additional sites (two) since then are the westernmost localities, found in northern St. Louis Co. in Voyageurs National Park (VNP) (Jannett et al, 2007). Long-term monitoring (1983-ongoing) of rock vole and other small mammal populations by one of us (FJJ) at some of these sites and at other new sites reported here has indicated relatively constant population numbers over multiple years (Jannett, 1990) but with occasional declines to extremely low numbers and complete "absences" of variable duration (FJJ, pers. obs.)

This pattern of variable presence and abundance has complicated understanding the distribution and range limits of the species in Minnesota. Here we present results to further define the western boundary of the range of Microtus chrotorrhinus, document greater range of habitats, and suggest that the distribution in Minnesota is concordant with the extent of the boulder- and rock-rich Rainy lobe of the Wisconsinan glaciation.

METHODS

Museum Special break-back traps (Woodstream Corp., Lititz, Pennsylvania) baited with peanut butter, apple, and rolled oats, or with rolled oats alone, were used in all inventorying and monitoring. Additionally, other types of traps or bait were deployed (Table 1). Voucher specimens were deposited in the collections of the Biology Department of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Museum of Texas Tech University (MoTTU), and Science Museum of Minnesota (for which the designated repository is MoTTU). Where there may not have been voucher specimens prepared (four localities), a list of those localities with rock voles is archived at MoTTU and in the Natural Heritage database of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Localities for sites within VNP where no rock voles were caught were reported to Park staff. …

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