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Title: Mechanisms of space use in the wood mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus
Author: Godsall, Ben
ISNI:       0000 0004 7233 0180
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2015
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"Space use" describes a wide set of movement behaviours that animals display to acquire the resources necessary for their survival and reproductive success. Studies across taxa commonly focus on the relationships between space use and individual-, habitat- and population-level factors. There is growing evidence, however, that variation in space use between individuals can also occur due to differences in 'personalities' and genetic variation between individuals. Using a wild population of the European wood mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus, this thesis aims to: i) investigate the roles of individual-level (body mass, body fat reserves and testosterone), habitat-level (Rhododendron and logs) and population-level (population density, sex ratio and season) factors as drivers of individual variation in the emergent space use patterns of individual home range size and home range overlap, estimated using spatial data collected in a mixed-deciduous woodland over three years. ii) Establish a link between genes and space use through the heritability and response to selection of phenotypic traits linked to individual variation in space use. A pedigree of the population is reconstructed from microsatellite data. Individual reproductive success is estimated from it and used to estimate selection gradients for three phenotypic traits. Heritability estimates are calculated using the animal model and together with selection gradients are used to predict the generational change in the population mean of traits using the Breeders equation. The results of this thesis suggest that the mechanism behind space use in this population of A. sylvaticus involves interactions between season, habitat, sex and the three individual-level factors (body mass, body fat and testosterone). The heritability of traits linked to emergent space use patterns suggests indirect effects of genes on individual variation in space use. Small responses to selection for traits suggests that gene-driven changes to space use patterns will most likely be indistinguishable between generations.
Supervisor: Coulson, Timothy Sponsor: European Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral