Two alternative ontogenetic pathways regularly effected in the populations of small mammals are analyzed as a manifestation of developmental multiversality. The types of ontogeny in rodents are characterized. These data are reflected in the concept of the functional approach. Multiversality of development in plants and animals is considered. Based on the results of long-term (26-year) observations on the natural populations of six rodent species, the dynamics of relationships between the types of ontogeny, abundance, and basic population parameters are analyzed using an example of a background species (Clethrionomys glareolus). A trigger mechanism of switching to a certain type of ontogeny, the role of environmental factors in actuating this mechanism, and the role of the genotype as a basis of multivalence are discussed. The existence of two developmental variants is regarded as a basis for functional rearrangements providing for a high flexibility of population responses and as a mechanism of population regulation determining the dynamics of rodent fauna. An adaptive population response to a board spectrum of influences, including anthropogenic damage, depends not only on the type and strength of the influence, but also on the functional structure of the population. The concepts described in the paper may explain the significance of critical periods in the life of populations.
Russian Journal of Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 13, 2004
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