Anyone Can Get Old—All You Have to Do Is Live Long Enough: Understanding Mortality and Life Expectancy in European Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus)

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The European hedgehog is in decline, triggering a need to monitor population dynamics to optimise conservation initiatives directed at this species. By counting periosteal growth lines, we determined the age of 388 dead European hedgehogs collected through citizen science in Denmark. The overall mean age was 1.8 years (1.6 years for females and 2.1 years for males), ranging between 0 and 16 years. We constructed life tables showing life expectancies at 2.1 years for females and 2.6 years for males. We discovered that male hedgehogs were more likely to have died in traffic than females, but traffic-related deaths peaked in July for both sexes. A sex difference was detected for non-traffic deaths, as most males died in July, and most females died in September. We created empirical survivorship curves and hazard curves showing that the risk of death for male hedgehogs remains approximately constant with age. In contrast, the risk of death for females increases with age. Most of the collected road-killed individuals died in rural habitats. The degree of inbreeding did not influence longevity. These new insights are important for preparing conservation strategies for the European hedgehog.

Original languageEnglish
Article number626
Issue number4
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 by the authors.

    Research areas

  • age, age structure, European hedgehogs, life tables, matrix models, periosteal growth lines, sex-biased longevity, sex-biased mortality, urban and rural, wildlife conservation

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