Myodes glareolusbank vole

Geographic Range

Palearctic: Myodes glareolus is found from Europe through Central Asia (Macdonald 2001; Jonsson et al. 2000). Populations have frequently been recorded in Finland (Oksanen et al. 2001; Yoccoz et al. 2001; Oksanen et al. 1999; Prevot-Julliard et al. 1999; Horne and Ylonen 1996, 1998; Koskela et al. 1998; Koskela et al. 1997) and the United Kingdom (Bellamy et al. 2000; Flowerdew and Gardner 1978). (Bellamy, et al., 2000; Flowerdew and Gardner, 1978; Horne and Ylonen, 1996; Horne and Ylonen, 1998; Jonsson, et al., 2000; Koskela, et al., 1998; Koskela, et al., 1997; Macdonald, 2001; Oksanen, et al., 1999; Oksanen, et al., 2001; Prevot-Julliard, et al., 1999; Yoccoz, et al., 2001)


Bank voles are found in a wide variety of habitats, including forests, scrub forests, hedges, banks, and swamps (Macdonald 2001; Bellamy et al. 2000). They appear to prefer deciduous, coniferous, and taiga forests (Yoccoz et al. 2001; Prevot-Julliard et al. 1999; Koskela et al. 1998; Koskela et al. 1997; Ostfeld 1985).

Physical Description

Adult bank voles reach a head-body length of 10-11cm and a weight of 17-20g, with males and females being approximately the same size. The tail is less than body length and reaches a length of 3-4cm. Bank voles are small with small eyes and ears. Their body is covered by thick fur in shades of brown or gray. Their muzzle is blunt and rounded. Relative to body size, M. glareolus has a small brain. Teeth are prismatic and are characterized by flat crowns, which are adapted for their herbivorous diet (Macdonald 2001).

  • Range mass
    17 to 20 g
    0.60 to 0.70 oz
  • Range length
    10 to 11 cm
    3.94 to 4.33 in


The mating system of M. glareolus can be described as polygamous (Macdonald 2001), and possibly promiscuous (Horne and Ylonen 1998). While females defend territories that may overlap with other females, males defend larger territories that overlap with the territories of several females. Females appear to prefer dominant males and may affect which males get the chance to mate by running away from subordinate males (Horne and Ylonen 1998). As parturition nears, females become more aggressive and each female's territory decreases in size. The home range becomes smaller and the central ranges of different territories become farther from each other (Koskela et al. 1997).

The estrous cycle of M. glareolus lasts four days (Oksanen et al. 1999). The breeding season is from late April to September (Oksanen et al. 2001). Copulation is characterized by a series of intromissions followed by ejaculation (Horne and Ylonen 1996). Gestation lasts from 17 days with optimal nutrition, to 24 days if the female becomes pregnant while lactating during postpartum estrus (Macdonald 2001; Koskela et al. 1998). The average gestation length is 21 days (Macdonald 2001). From 1 to 10 pups are born per litter with approximately 4 litters born per breeding season (Macdonald 2001; Oksanen et al. 2001). The average number of pups per litter is 4-8 (Oksanen et al. 2001). Pups weigh 1-10g at birth, which makes up a total of 22-28% of the female’s weight. During pregnancy and lactation, females require 30-130% more energy (Ostfeld 1985). Infanticide occurs in males and females. Females will kill the pups of their female neighbors and males will kill pups as a mating tactic (Koskela et al. 1998; Koskela et al. 1997; Horne and Ylonen 1996).

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from April to September.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 10
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    17 to 24 days
  • Average gestation period
    21 days
  • Range weaning age
    20 to 25 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 8 weeks
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3-6 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 8 weeks
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3-6 weeks

Pups are born blind and helpless in an underground nest lined with grass and other vegetation. The female is the sole provider of parental care (Macdonald 2001). The pups are weaned at the age of 20-25 days (Macdonald 2001; Oksanen et al. 2001; Oksanen et al. 1999; Horne and Ylonen 1998).


The lifespan of M. glareolus is very short. Average lifespan is 0.5-2 years, with most individuals not lasting more than one breeding season (Macdonald 2001; Ostfeld 1985). Bank voles mature quickly with females maturing at 2-3 weeks and males maturing at 6-8 weeks (Macdonald 2001).

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    0.5 to 2 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    0.5 to 2 years


Myodes glareolus may be diurnal or nocturnal though they are primarily crepuscular (Macdonald 2001). Their social system is characterized by a dominance hierarchy with females dominant over males, especially during the breeding season (Horne and Ylonen 1998). Upon reaching maturity, males disperse, while females stay in their natal area (Macdonald 2001). Female territories average 0.7ha, while male territories are larger, averaging 0.8ha (Macdonald 2001; Koivula et al. 1999).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Myodes glareolus have been characterized as omnivorous (Ostfeld 1985) and herbivorous (Macdonald 2001). When eating grass, M. glareolus clip the stalks and lays the clippings in piles. Food is obtained in the winter by burrowing underground. In the summer and fall food is cached. Diet changes with season and location but includes green parts of plants (Macdonald 2001), fruits and seeds from available trees, such as the European ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) (Flowerdew and Gardner 1978) and grass (Macdonald 2001).

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Many small predators rely on bank voles as prey. Bank voles partially escape predation by remaining under cover in underground tunnels or runways in grass and vegetation. I is thought that avian predators use the ultraviolet reflections of scent marks to locate their prey (Koivula et al. 1999).

Ecosystem Roles

Bank voles are important as a prey base for many small avian and mammalian predators and snakes. They are often abundant and can form the main component of the diet of these predators. They may also help in recycling and redistributing nutrients in the ecosystems in which they live through herbivory.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans benefit from bank voles through their beneficial ecosystem roles.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Myodes glareolus have been found to spread hantavirus. In temperate climates, they are also crop pests (Macdonald 2001).

Conservation Status

Bank voles are widely distributed and often abundant, they are not threatened.

Other Comments

There is a rich fossil record in the Pleistocene (Macdonald 2001).


Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Marie Mueller (author), Michigan State University.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


2002. "CITES" (On-line). Accessed April 10, 2002 at

2000. "IUCN" (On-line). Accessed April 10, 2002 at

2001. "U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service" (On-line). Accessed April 10, 2002 at

Bellamy, P., R. Shore, D. Ardeshir, J. Treweek, T. Sparks. 2000. Road verges as habitat for small mammals in Britain. Mammal Review, 30: 131-139.

Flowerdew, J., G. Gardner. 1978. Small rodent populations and food supply in a Derbyshire Ahswood. Journal of Animal Ecology, 47: 725-740.

Horne, T., H. Ylonen. 1996. Female bank voles (*Clethrionomys glareolus*) prefer dominant males; but what if there is no choice. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 38: 401-405.

Horne, T., H. Ylonen. 1998. Heritabilities of dominance-related traits in male bank voles (*Clethrionomys glareolus*). Evolution, 52: 894-899.

Jonsson, P., E. Koskela, T. Mappes. 2000. Does risk of predation by mammalian predators affect the spacing behavior of rodents? Two large-scale experiments. Oecologia, 122: 4877-492.

Koivula, M., E. Koskela, J. Viitala. 1999. Sex and age-specific differences in ultraviolet reflectance of scent marks of bank voles (*Clethrionomys glareolus*). Journal of Comparative Physiology, 185: 561-564.

Koskela, E., P. Jonsson, T. Hartikainen, T. Mappes. 1998. Limitation of reproductive success by food availability and litter size in the bank vole, *Clethrionomys glareolus*. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London B, 265: 1129-1134.

Koskela, E., T. Mappes, H. Ylonen. 1997. Territorial behaviour and reproductive success of bank vole *Clethrionomys glareolus* females. Journal of Animal Ecology, 66: 341-349.

Macdonald, D. 2001. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. United Kingdom: Andromeda Oxford Limited.

Oksanen, T., R. Alatalo, T. Horne, E. Koskela, J. Mappes. 1999. Maternal effort and male quality in the bank vole, *Clethrionomys glareolus*. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London B, 266: 1495-1499.

Oksanen, T., P. Jonsson, E. Koskela, T. Mappes. 2001. Optimal allocation of reproductive effort: manipulation of offspring number and size in the bank vole. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London B, 268: 661-666.

Ostfeld, R. 1985. Limiting resources and territoriality in microtine rodents. American Naturalist, 126: 1-15.

Prevot-Julliard, A., H. Henttonen, N. Yoccoz, N. Stenseth. 1999. Delayed maturation in female bank voles: optimal decision or social constraint. Journal of Animal Ecology, 68: 684-697.

Southern, H., V. Lowe. 1968. The pattern of distribution of prey and predation in tawny owl territories. Journal of Animal Ecology, 37: 75-97.

Yoccoz, N., N. Stenseth, H. Henttonen, A. Prevot-Julliard. 2001. Effects of food addition on the seasonal density-dependent structure of bank vole, *Clethrionomys glareolus*, populations. Journal of Animal Ecology, 70: 713-720.