Effects of Radio-Collars are not Contingent on Socioecological Conditions in Degus

Luis A. Ebensperger, Verónica Quirici, Valentina Bunster, Cecilia León, Juan Ramírez-Estrada, Loren D. Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Species-specific research on free-ranging mammals reveals a diversity of effects of radio-collars on behavior, body condition, and fitness. Although these studies indicate rather limited direct effects, radio-collars may cause effects influenced by socio-ecological conditions. Using a 7-year study on a natural population of group-living degus (Octodon degus), we tested the hypothesis that ecological (food availability, burrow density) and social (group size, group male-to-female ratio) conditions modulate effects of radio-collars on body condition (e.g., body mass, ecto- and endoparasite loads, fecal cortisol metabolites) and direct fitness (litter size, adult survival). We determined the effect of radio-collar use on degus by contrasting the presence or absence of radio-collars, quantifying the effects of the number of days carrying a radio-collar, and the relative mass of radio-collars worn by degus in central Chile between 2009 and 2015. Radio-collar use was not associated with direct effects on litter size, adult survival, or with body mass and fecal cortisol metabolites but was linked to low ecto- and endoparasite loads. These seemingly positive effects may reflect decreased mobility, or a research bias for radio-collaring larger, healthier individuals. There was no evidence that ecological and social conditions modulated radio-collar effects on degu body condition and direct fitness. These findings are consistent with evidence from other mammal studies that reported no appreciable detrimental direct or indirect effects of radio-collars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1344-1354
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Volume85
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • body condition
  • degus
  • ecology
  • fecal cortisol
  • parasite load
  • radio-telemetry
  • reproductive success
  • social organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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