Conservation, personality and ecology of the European mink (Mustela lutreola)
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Loss of biodiversity is a growing problem and hence conservation of species is becoming increasingly important. In this dissertation conservation issues related to the critically endangered European mink (Mustela lutreola) are examined in situ (in the wild) and ex situ (in captivity) on both an individual and community level. It also contains fundamental research as conservation contexts often allow for conclusions beyond applied biology. Individual behavioural differences, e.g. personality, can impact fitness and are hence relevant for conservation. Paper I thus experimentally explores the structure, expression and plasticity of personality in captive European minks. Thereafter paper II investigates if personality affects survival of reintroduced captive-bred animals and if spatiotemporal conditions affects the relationship between personality and survival. Paper III experimentally explores individual dietary specialism and learning in relation to novel prey as this could also impact survival. One of the main threats to the European mink is displacement by the invasive American mink (Neovison vison) wherefore management of American mink is important for European mink conservation. Paper IV hence analyses survey data to study whether native otters and red foxes can suppress American mink populations in north-eastern Europe. In the results three personality trait domains were identified in the European mink: boldness, exploration and sociability. The domains were repeatable but plastic between the non-breeding and breeding season. Reintroduced personality-tested animals survived longer if they were bolder but the effect of exploration was either positive or negative depending on spatiotemporal conditions. This is not only interesting for conservation but provides new insights on how individual behavioural differences could be maintained over evolutionary time. Whilst exploration is likely to be maintained by fluctuating selection pressures, the mechanism seem to vary with domain. The feeding experiments revealed diet choices similar to those found in wild individuals as there were both generalists and different types of specialists. Still, individuals differed in learning time towards novel but natural prey, suggesting that reintroduced animals might differ in their ability to find food after release. This could affect survival also and be related to personality. Survey data revealed that American mink abundances were suppressed by those of red foxes. Previous studies show that foxes are suppressed by lynx, and the abundance pattern of mink in relation to red fox found here indicate the existence of a predator cascade as mink were most abundant where lynx were abundant and vice versa. In several regions in the study area population dynamics indicated either exploitation or interference competition as probable mechanisms whereby foxes suppress minks. However, in many regions there were no relationships between dynamics. This could be due to that exploitation and interference competition might occur simultaneously and thus cancel each other out in the dynamics. Overall this thesis shows the importance of considering individual traits in conservation efforts, and also provides knowledge on the structure, plasticity and evolution of personality. As American mink was suppressed by foxes, management efforts might be most beneficial for species impacted by the mink if they to a larger extent are undertaken in areas with low fox abundances.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University , 2016. , 40 p.
European mink, Mustela lutreola, Conservation, Personality, Individual specialism, Diet, American mink, Neovison vison, Intraguild competition
Research subject Animal Ecology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-129973ISBN: 978-91-7649-420-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-129973DiVA: diva2:926505
2016-06-15, Vivi Täckholm-salen, NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Kauhala, Kaarina, Senior Research Scientist
Elmhagen, Bodil, DocentAngerbjörn, Anders, Professor
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 3: Submitted. Paper 4: Manuscript.2016-05-232016-05-082016-05-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers