Agonistic Behaviour and Bite Wound Patterns in Wild Water Voles (Arvicola terrestrisL.)

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Abstract

Intra-specific aggression was investigated in a wild colony of Water voles between 1999 and 2004 in South Wales, UK. The occurrence and location (i.e. on the head, neck, body or tail) of bite wounds were recorded for adult and juvenile male and female voles. The greatest (33%) incidence of bite wounds were recorded on juvenile females and the lowest (18%) in adult females. Seasonal analysis of wound data in adults revealed that females were more likely to be bitten during the breeding season whereas bite patterns in males did not vary seasonally. Analysis of bite pattern topography revealed that most Water voles seemingly attempt to bite vulnerable target areas of the body (namely the head and tail). This is in contrast with studies on rats and mice where competitive forms of attack (particularly involving males) largely avoid these areas of the attacked animal's body. Targeting vulnerable areas is normally a characteristic of defensive modes of attack. Patterns of bite topography and agonistic behaviour in this species seem to reflect competitive interactions between individuals, particularly between territorial females and their female offspring, over access to essential resources. Aggr. Behav. 32:599-603. 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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