Food preferences of the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) in Northern Illinois tall-grass prairie
Karnes, Jeanine E.
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A study was conducted to determine the food preferences of the meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, in a restored Illinois tail- grass prairie during the growing season of 1978. Voles were live- trapped from the restoration area and placed in test arenas. After seven hours, weighed amounts of selected plant species were placed in the arena. The voles were allowed to feed on the plants for approximately 17 hours. At the end of this period, the remaining plant material was removed and the amount eaten by the voles was determined. A similar set of trials was performed in the laboratory. Differences in the amount consumed between plant species was tested by analysis of variance. If significant differences were found, Duncan's multiple range test was used to determine which plant species were significantly more preferred. Student’s t-test was employed to test for significant differences in preferences between sexes. Shannon-Wiener diversity indices were calculated for each trial period. Results of the study showed that significant differences in preference did exist between plant species. In the field, a trend existed for high preference for the following dicotyledons: Cirsium arvense, Polygonum pensylvanicum, and Solidago canadensis. A consistently low preference was shown for Eupatorium serotinum, whereas an intermediate preference was shown for the monocotyledons, Andropogon gerardi and Sorghastrum nutans. The cultivar head lettuce, Lactuca sativa var, capitata, was highly preferred in both the field and laboratory trials. In the laboratory, Sorghastrum nutans was more preferred than Solidago canadensis. Literature concerning food habits is reviewed and similarities and dissimilarities are discussed in relation to the present study. The conclusion is drawn that Cirsium arvense, Polygonum pensylvanicum, and Solidago canadensis are highly preferred as food items by meadow voles. It is suggested that characteristics of these plants such as crude fiber content, moisture content, successional status, and secondary compounds may explain the high preference shown for these plant species.