Extra-territorial movements differ between territory holders and subordinates in a large, monogamous rodent
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScientific Reports. 2017, 7 (1), . 10.1038/s41598-017-15540-0
Territorial animals carry out extra-territorial movements (forays) to obtain pre-dispersal information or to increase reproductive success via extra-pair copulation. However, little is known about other purposes and spatial movement patterns of forays. In this study, we GPS-tagged 54 Eurasian beavers (Castor fber), a year-round territorial, monogamous mammal, during the non-mating season. We investigated forays in territory-holding breeders (dominants) and non-breeding (subordinate) family members. Twenty of 46 dominant individuals (44%), and 6 of 10 subordinates (60%) conducted forays. Generally, beavers spent between 0 and 11% of their active time on forays, travelled faster and spend more time in water when on forays compared to intra-territorial movements, suggesting that forays are energetically costly. Further, beavers in smaller territories conducted more forays. Possibly, smaller territories might not have sufcient resources and thus dominant individuals might conduct forays to assess possibilities for territory expansion, and potentially for foraging. Generally, besides territory advertisement (e.g. via scent-marking), forays might serve as an additional mechanism for territory owners to assess neighbours. Subordinates spent more time on forays, moved greater distances and intruded into more territories than dominant individuals did, suggesting that they prospected to gain information on the population density and available mates before dispersal.