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Data from: The island syndrome hypothesis is only partially validated in two rodent species in an inland-island system

Cite this dataset

Juette, Tristan; Garant, Dany; Jameson, Joël W; Réale, Denis (2020). Data from: The island syndrome hypothesis is only partially validated in two rodent species in an inland-island system [Dataset]. Dryad.


According to the island syndrome and island rule hypotheses, island isolation and reduced area lead to phenotypic shifts in ecologically relevant traits in insular populations compared to mainland ones. These hypotheses have been built up with oceanic islands in mind or islands where isolation is high and colonization rate relatively limited. This set of hypotheses, however, may not be applicable to other inland-island systems or recently fragmented landscapes.

We investigated how island life leads to phenotypic changes in two rodent metapopulations: deer mice and red-backed voles in a fragmented system on a river in Canada. From 2013 to 2016, we sampled 454 deer mice and 665 red-backed voles spread across 10 islands and six mainland sites on river shores. We compared body mass, tail and hindfoot length, exploration, and reaction towards predators, between individuals from island and mainland sites, and assessed the role of connectivity, isolation and area of islands.

Insular individuals from both species were less aggressive towards potential predators and insular mice were more thorough explorers compared to mainland ones. Male mice were heavier and juvenile mice had longer tails on islands. However, contrary to expectations, we found negative relationships between aggressiveness and juvenile exploration score with patch connectivity for mice. Island connectivity significantly affected tail length of mice through a concave relationship. Finally, vole aggressiveness and exploration of male mice were positively correlated to island isolation.

Our study supports only partially the predictions of the island syndrome hypothesis. It provides empirical evidence that inland-island life can modify traits in deer mice, but less so in red-backed voles in a non-oceanic system. It also raises questions about the direct causal factors of these changes in a naturally fragmented landscape, and urges for more predictive models about phenotypic/genetic divergence among populations in natural and artificial fragmented landscapes.


The study area was located within the Winnipeg River system, in the Minaki area (49°59′11″N 94°40′12″W), north-western Ontario, Canada



Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Nature et Technologies

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Société Française d'Ecologie et d'Evolution

Société Française d'Ecologie et d'Evolution