Both breeding activity and abundance and quality of available food are expected to influence daily movements of animals. Animals are predicted to range over large areas to meet high energy demands associated with reproduction (females) or to increase mating success (males). However, animals should expand their range areas whenever food conditions deteriorate. To examine the extent to which breeding activity versus food availability influence space use, we compared the size and location of range areas (home ranges) of the degu (Octodon degus), a diurnal rodent from semiarid environments of north-central Chile, during the austral winter and summer seasons. Degus produce young during the austral spring (September–October) when high-quality food is readily available. In contrast, degus do not breed during the austral summer (January–March) when food is scarce and of low quality. We predicted that degus would range over smaller areas in winter if the availability of food has a greater influence on space than breeding activity. Individuals were radiotracked in winter and the following summer over a 3-year period. Surveys of herbaceous cover were conducted during winter and summer to determine seasonal changes in the abundance and quality of primary food. In summer degus expanded and moved the location of their range areas to locations with available food. Given that preferred food was less abundant in summer than winter, we suggest that degu range areas are strongly influenced by food conditions.
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Vol. 91 • No. 2