Behaviour 2019
Exploring the Emerald Isle: Spatial orientation of invasive bank voles in Ireland
Valeria Mazza, Jana A. Eccard. University of Potsdam, Potsdam, , Germany

Whether introduced into a completely novel habitat or slowly expanding their current range, the degree to which animals can efficiently explore and navigate new environments may be a key component of survival, ultimately determining population establishment and invasion success.
We tested whether spatial orientation and exploratory behaviour are associated with invasive spread in free-living bank voles (Myodes glareolus, N = 43) accidentally introduced to Ireland a century ago. We measured orientation and navigation skills in a radial arm maze and behaviours associated to exploratory tendencies and risk-taking in an open-field test, at the expansion edge and at the population source. Contrary to our expectations, bank voles at the expansion edge were more risk-averse and took longer to start exploring both the open field and the radial arm maze compared to conspecifics in the source population, re-visited unrewarded arms of the maze more, and waited longer before leaving it. Taken together, results suggest that for this heavily predated upon small mammal, a careful and thorough exploration strategy might be favoured when expanding into novel environments.