Comparative population dynamics of Peromyscus leucopus in North America: Influences of climate, food, and density dependence

Guiming Wang, Jerry O. Wolff, Stephen H. Vessey, Norman A. Slade, Jack W. Witham, Joseph F. Merritt, Malcolm L. Hunter, Susan P. Elias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temporal variation in population size is regulated by both exogenous forces and density-dependent feedbacks. Furthermore, accumulating evidence indicates that temporal and spatial variation in climate and resources can modify the strength of density dependence in animal populations. We analyzed six long-term time series estimates of Peromyscus leucopus (white-footed mouse) abundance from Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Maine, USA, using the Kalman filter. Model-averaged estimates of the strength of delayed density dependence increased from west to east and from south to north. The strength of direct and delayed density dependence was positively related to the annual number of days with minimum temperature below -17.8°C. Annual population growth rates of P. leucopus at the Maine site were positively related to acorn abundance and P. leucopus populations tracked the changes in red-oak acorn abundance. The populations of P. leucopus living in northern latitudes might be more dependent on northern red oak (Quercus rubra) acorns for winter food than P. leucopus in southern latitudes. Furthermore, northern red oak trees mast every 4-5 years. Thus, longer, colder winters in northerly latitudes might result in stronger delayed density dependence in mouse populations with a shortage of winter food. Mice might simply track the acorn fluctuations in a delayed autocorrelated manner; however, delayed density dependence remained in our models for the Maine mouse populations after accounting for acorns, suggesting additional sources for delayed density dependence. Our results suggest that, in seed-eating Peromyscus, cyclicity may be regulated, in part, from low to high trophic levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-142
Number of pages10
JournalPopulation Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Acorn
  • Kalman filter
  • Population cyclicity
  • Red oak
  • Spatial pattern
  • Variable coefficient models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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