Scopin A.E., Dzhapova V.V., Bembeeva O.G., Ayusheva E.Ch., Dzhapova R.R., Abaturov B.D. 2020. Diet selection by the social vole Microtus socialis (Pallas, 1773) in the Northwest Caspian Lowland // Russian J. Theriol. Vol.19. No.2. P.136–148 [in English].

Alexey E. Scopin [], Prof. B.M. Zhitkov Russian Research Institute of Game Management and Fur Farming, 79 Preobrazhenskaya Str., Kirov 610000, Russia; Vita V. Dzhapova [], Department of Veterinary Science, Kalmyk State University, 11 Pushkina Str., Elista 358000, Kalmyk Republic, Russia; Olga G. Bembeeva [], Institute for Integrated Studies of Arid Territories of the Kalmyk Republic, 111 Khomutnikova Str., Elista 358005, Kalmyk Republic, Russia; Elena Ch. Ayusheva [], Kalmyk State University, Department of Botany, 11 Pushkina Str., Elista 358000, Kalmyk Republic, Russia; Raisa R. Dzapova [djapova04@mail. ru], Department of Botany, Kalmyk State University, 11 Pushkina Str., Elista 358000, Kalmyk Republic, Russia, Kalmyk Republic; Boris D. Abaturov [], A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, 33 Leninski Prospekt, Moscow 119071, Russia.

doi: 10.15298/rusjtheriol.19.2.04

ABSTRACT. The article presents the research results the food selection and preferences of the social vole Microtus socialis in the dry steppes (northern subzone of the deserts) in the Chernye Zemli State Biosphere Reserve (north-western part of the Caspian Lowland). It is the first time when the data on seasonal variability of food composition of social voles in their permanent settlements has been obtained by means of cuticular microhistological feces analysis. The diet of the voles consists of 31 plant species. The basis of the diet is grasses (55–95%), mainly Poa bulbosa. Forbs are consumed in smaller amounts, but they play an important role in the summer life of the rodent. In spring, the tulip bulbs (Tulipa biebersteiniana) and the terrestrial parts of Chorispora tenella are of greatest importance in the nutrition of the vole. These herbivores do not eat Bassia hyssopifolia, Phlomis pungens, Carduus acanthoides at all. Voles maximize the use of forage diversity in the area of their settlements. The trophic interactions of rodents to certain plant species were evaluated through the preferences of baits containing plant extracts. The social voles consume baits with extracts from different plant species in varying degrees. In general, the consumption of baits containing grass extracts is higher than that of baits containing extracts from most species of forbs. In the group of forbs, the social vole unequivocally prefer baits containing tulip extracts. The baits with other forbs are consumed by two or more times less than those with grass extracts. The social vole gives the least preference to baits with extracts from Senecio vernalis and Tanacetum achilleifolium. Most likely, a high concentration of toxic secondary metabolites is the main reason for voles avoiding certain baits with plant extracts.

KEY WORDS: Microtus socialis, food selection, forage composition, arid ecosystems, Caspian Lowland.

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