University of Chicago Press, January 2013. 296 pages, hard cover, line drawings, maps.
How did rodent outbreaks in Germany help to end World War I? What caused the destructive outbreak of rodents in Oregon and California in the late 1950s, the large population outbreak of lemmings in Scandinavia in 2010, and the great abundance of field mice in Scotland in the spring of 2011? Population fluctuations, or outbreaks, of rodents constitute one of the classic problems of animal ecology, and in “Population Fluctuations in Rodents”, Charles J. Krebs sifts through the last eighty years of research to draw out exactly what we know about rodent outbreaks and what should be the agenda for future research. Krebs has synthesized the research in this area, focusing mainly on the voles and lemmings of the Northern Hemisphere – his primary area of expertise – but also referring to the literature on rats and mice. He covers the patterns of changes in reproduction and mortality and the mechanisms that cause these changes – including predation, disease, food shortage, and social behaviour – and discusses how landscapes can affect population changes, methodically presenting the hypotheses related to each topic before determining whether or not the data supports them.
He ends on an expansive note, by turning his gaze outward and discussing how the research on rodent populations can apply to other terrestrial mammals. Geared toward advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and practicing ecologists interested in rodent population studies, this book will also appeal to researchers seeking to manage rodent populations and to understand outbreaks in both natural and urban settings – or, conversely, to protect endangered species.