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Class Mammalia
Order Rodentia
Family Cricetidae
Subfamily Arvicolinae


Microtus californicus—California Vole // Microtus longicaudus—Long-tailed Vole // Microtus meadensis—Mead Vole // Microtus miguelensis—San Miguel Island Vole // Microtus mogollonensis—Mogollon Vole // Microtus montanus—Montane Vole // Microtus ochrogaster—Prairie Vole // Microtus pennsylvanicus—Meadow Vole

Microtus sp.—VolesPleistocene regional distribution of Microtus sp.

Vole teeth are easily identified to genus, but there are severe problems associated with identifying teeth to species. Generally, m1 is the best tooth for specific identification. Microtus montanus appears to be the regional species most difficult to identify, with characters of various individuals overlapping those of one or another species.

The voles from the Guadalupe Mountains generally have been assigned to M. mogollonensis; however, the two teeth from Mystery Light Cave do not appear typical of that species.

Included here is "Microtus with five triangles" from Anza-Borrego that at times has been identified as M. californicus (Murray et al. 2011); however, they note that there are a dozen extant species with similar m1 morphology and thus geographic position plays a part in identification of this vole.


Pleistocene: Perico Creek (Morgan and Lucas 2005).

Irvingtonian: Anza-Borrego (Murray et al. 2011); Elsinore: Microtus/Mammuthus (Pajak et al. 1996).

Early Irvingtonian: El Casco, San Timoteo Badlands (Albright 2000).

Late Irvingtonian: Elsinore: Pauba Formation (Pajak et al. 1996).

Rancholabrean: Bitter Springs Playa (Jefferson 2014); Centennial Parkway, Las Vegas Valley (Jefferson et al. 2015 ?); Choate Ranch (Mead et al. 2005); Cool Water Coal Gasification Solid Waste Site (Jefferson 1991b); Detention Basin, Upper Las Vegas Wash (Jefferson et al. 2015); Eagle Crest (Jefferson 2014); Hawes (Jefferson 2015); Hoffman Road (Jefferson 2014); Lake San Agustín (Morgan and Lucas 2005); Lake View Hot Springs (Jefferson 2014); Los Angeles Police Station (Jefferson 1991b); Mescal Cave (Jefferson 1991b); National City West (Jefferson 2014); Piute Ponds (Jefferson 2014); Tramperos Creek (Morgan and Lucas 2005); Tule Springs 1 (Jefferson et al. 2015); Tule Springs 3 (Jefferson et al. 2015); Tule Springs 5 (Jefferson et al. 2015); Tule Springs Stein (Jefferson et al. 2015); Wilshire Blvd., 10580 The Wilshire, Los Angeles (Jefferson 1991b).

Rancholabrean/Early Holocene: Metro Rail Universal City Station (Jefferson 2014).

Late Pleistocene: Wanis View (Jefferson 2014).

Wisconsin: CC:5:5 (Mead et al. 2003); Costeau Pit (Jefferson 1991b).

Mid Wisconsin: Papago Springs Cave (Czaplewski and Mead et al. 1999); Screaming Neotoma Cave (Bell and Glennon 2003); Tank Trap Wash (Van Devender et al. 1987).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Pintwater Cave (Hockett 2000); Sandblast Cave (Emslie 1988).

Late Wisconsin: Blackwater Loc. No. 1 (Lundelius 1972); Carrington Point (Mead et al. 2004); Hueco Tanks (Van Devender et al. 1987); Maricopa (Jefferson 1991b); Mountain View Country Club (Jefferson 2014); Mystery Light Cave (this volume); Navar Ranch (Van Devender et al. 1987); Nankoweap Canyon (Cole and Mead 1981); Park Place, Irvine (Jefferson 2014); Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003); Potosi Mountain (Mead and Murray 1991); South Crest Midden, Sheep Range (Jefferson et al. 2015); U-Bar Cave 13-14 ka (Harris 1989).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Arroyo del Coyote (Morgan and Lucas 2005); Baldy Peak Cave (Harris 1993c); Deadman Cave (Mead et al. 1984); VLA (Morgan and Lucas 2005).

Rancholabrean/Holocene: Arvin Landfill (Jefferson 2014).

Literature. Albright 2000; Bell and Glennon 2003; Cole and Mead 1981; Czaplewski and Mead et al. 1999; Emslie 1988; Harris 1989, 1993c, 2003; Hockett 2000; Jefferson 1991b, 2014; Jefferson et al. 2015; Lundelius 1972; Mawby 1967; Mead and Murray 1991; Mead et al. 1984, 2003, 2004, 2005; Morgan and Lucas 2005; Murray et al. 2011; Pajak et al. 1996; Van Devender et al. 1987.


Microtus californicus (Peale 1848)—California VoleRegional Pleistocene distribution of Microtus californicus.

The present day distribution of M. californicus is limited to the West Coast region east into the Mojave Desert. Rogers et al. (2000) tentatively identified it from Irvingtonian deposits of SAM Cave in extreme northern New Mexico. A record from the "Late Wisconsin/Holocene" Kathy's Pit presumably is a typographical error in Table 2 since there is the comment in text (p. 94) that the sediments "contain only representatives of the modern fauna but with a composition that would indicate closer water than occurs at SAM Cave today." The other reasonable interpretation is contamination; mention is made of two Allophaiomys teeth from recent sediments being considered contaminants from earlier sediments due to packrat scavenging. The Kathy's Pit record is not listed here.

The identification apparently depended in part on the age of the specimens. The recovered teeth are similar to teeth of a Californian species older than 0.83 mya. "It is thought that this species represents an immigrant lineage of Microtus that evolved earlier in Eurasia, and it is the only known possible source for the Microtus of SAM Cave" (Rogers et al. 2000:97).


Irvingtonian: Shutt Ranch, San Timoteo Badlands (Albright 2000).

Medial Irvingtonian: Corona, California (Jefferson 1991b); SAM Cave (Rogers et al. 2000: cf.)

?Irvingtonian/Rancholabrean: Emery Borrow Pit (Jefferson 1991b).

Rancholabrean: Bedford Properties (Jefferson 1991b); Century City, Los Angeles (Jefferson 1991b); ; Piute Valley (Jefferson 1991b: cf.).

Sangamon: Naval Housing Unit (Jefferson 1991b); Newport Bay Mesa (Jefferson 1991b: cf.); San Pedro Lumber Co. (Jefferson 1991b: cf.).

Wisconsin: Carpinteria (Wilson 1933); Glen Abbey, Bonita (Majors 1993).

Mid Wisconsin: Glendale (Jefferson et al. 2015 ?); McKittrick (Schultz 1937): Pacific City (Wake and Roeder 2009).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Diamond Valley (Springer et al. 2009); Rancho La Brea (Stock and Harris);Tsuma Properties, San Clemente (Jefferson 2014).

Late Wisconsin: Antelope Cave (Reynolds, Reynolds, Bell, and Pitzer 1991); China Lake (Jefferson 1991b); La Mirada (Jefferson 1991b).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Calico Lakes (Jefferson 1991b: cf.); Kokoweef Cave (Reynolds, Reynolds, et al. 1991); Luz Foundation (Jefferson 1991b); Luz Solar Trough (Jefferson 1991b: cf.); Newberry Cave (Jefferson 1991b); Tule Springs (Mawby 1967: cf.).

Literature. Albright 2000; Jefferson 1991b, 2014; Jefferson et al. 2015; Majors 1993; Mawby 1967; Reynolds, Reynolds, et al. 1991; Rogers et al. 2000; Reynolds, Reynolds, Bell, and Pitzer 1991; Schultz 1937; Springer et al. 2009; Stock and Harris 1992; Wake and Roeder 2009; Wilson 1933.


Microtus longicaudus (Merriam 1888)—Long-tailed VolePleistocene regional distribution of Microtus longicaudus.

Microtus longicaudus is relatively intolerant of dry conditions and presence suggests mesic environments. It occurs now in the higher elevations of New Mexico in the coniferous forest zone. Identification by Harris has been largely on the basis of relatively thin enamel as measured at the posterior end of m1.


Rancholabrean: Palomas Creek Cave (Harris 1993c: ?).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Harris 1993c).

Late Wisconsin: Algerita Blossom Cave (Harris 1993c); Animal Fair 18-20 ka (Harris 1989); Balcony Room (UTEP); Bison Chamber (Harris 1970a); Harris Pocket (Harris 1970a); Stalag 17 (Harris 1993c); TT II (Harris 1993c).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Burnet Cave (Harris 1993c: cf.); Sheep Camp Shelter (Gillespie 1985)

Literature. Gillespsie 1985; Harris 1970a, 1989, 1993c.


Microtus meadensis Hibbard 1944—Mead VolePleistocene distribution of Microtus meadensis.

Synonyms. Pitymys meadensis, Terricola meadensis.


Irvingtonian: Anza-Borrego (Murray 2008).

Literature. Murray 2008.


Microtus miguelensis Guthrie 1998—San Miguel Island VolePleistocene distribution of Microtus miguelensis.

This vole is notable for its large size, greater than any living species of Microtus with the possible exception of M. richardsoni (Guthrie 19998).


Mid/Late Wisconsin: San Miguel Island (Guthrie 1998).

Literature. Guthrie 1998.


Microtus mogollonensis (Mearns 1890)—Mogollon VolePleistocene distribution of Microtus mogollonensis.

Synonyms. Microtus mexicanus (part).

The taxonomic status of this vole in our region is unsettled. Musser and Carleton (2005) treat our populations as Microtus mexicanus, and generally I have follow the taxonomy in "Mammalian Species of the World". In this case, however, I will yield to Frey and LaRue (1993). Under this classification, M. mexicanus is a Mexican species separated from the Southwestern M. mogollonensis by a geographic gap.

Comparison of palates and teeth of Microtus mogollonensis and Microtus longicaudus

Fig. 1. Palates of modern Microtus mogollonensis and M. longicaudus (anterior to bottom). The former species has the palatines and maxillary portions of the palate fused, whereas other Southwestern species do not. The check mark on the palate on the right shows the visible junction of the two elements. The terminal portion of M1 and M2 of M. mogollonensis typically shows a medially directed "hook" (best seen in the far-left tooth row), usually absent in other Southwestern species.

This species is one of the more xeric adapted. Although it normally occurs in the coniferous forest zone of the higher elevations, it descends under ideal conditions into the woodland zone. It is the only surviving arvicoline in the relatively dry Guadalupe Mountains, though limited in its geographic extent there. It is common as a fossil throughout the southern cave sites of New Mexico.


Mid Wisconsin: Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003); U-Bar Cave (Harris 1987).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Tebedge 1988); Pit N&W Animal Fair (Harris 1993c).

Mid/Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Sierra Diablo Cave (UTEP cf.).

Late Wisconsin: Algerita Blossom Cave (Harris 1993c); Animal Fair 18-20 ka (Harris 1989); Arroyo de las Tinajas 7A (UTEP); Balcony Room (UTEP); Baldy Peak Cave (UTEP); Big Manhole Cave (Harris 1993c); Bison Chamber (Harris 1970a); Blackwater Loc. No. 1 (Morgan and Lucas 2005: ?); Camel Room (Harris 1993c); Charlies Parlor (Harris 1989); Dust Cave (Harris and Hearst 2012: cf.); Harris' Pocket (Harris 1970a); Human Corridor (Harris 1993c); Lower Sloth Cave (Logan 1983); Muskox Cave (Logan 1981); Stalag 17(Harris 1993c); TT II (Harris 1993c); U-Bar Cave 14-15 ka (Harris 1989); U-Bar Cave 15-18 ka (Harris 1989); U-Bar Cave 18-20 ka (Harris 1989); Upper Sloth Cave (Logan and Black 1979).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Beyond Bison Chamber (Harris 1970a); Burnet Cave (Schultz and Howard 1935); Conkling Cavern (Smartt 1977); Fowlkes Cave (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b); Howell's Ridge Cave (Smartt 1977); Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Bat Cave (Scarbrough 1986).

Literature. Dalquest and Stangl 1984b; Frey and LaRue 1993; Harris 1970a, 1987, 1989, 1993c, 2003; Harris and Hearst 2012; Logan 1981, 1983; Logan and Black 1979; Morgan and Lucas 2005; Musser and Carleton 2005; Scarbrough 1986; Schultz and Howard 1935; Smartt 1977; Tebedge 1988.


Microtus montanus (Peale 1848)—Montane VolePleistocene regional distribution of Microtus montanus.

The Montane Vole occurs now in northern New Mexico and farther north, with small populations in the San Francisco River drainage in west central New Mexico; it also occurs in the higher elevations in east central Arizona. Identification is difficult, and the reported occurrences in our area are made with the aid of discriminate analysis of m1 measurements; however, attempts to utilize the process east of the Guadalupe Mountains seems to generate too many false positives for utility in that area. The same problem may affect identifications in south-central and southwestern New Mexico, with confusion in the results of discriminate analysis generally between Microtus montanus on the one hand and M. mogollonensis or M. longicaudus on the other. The latter species has not been identified in south-central and southwestern New Mexico south of the major mountain masses, but M. mogollonensis is common in fossil deposits of that area. Several of Smartt's specimens identified by his methodology as M. montanus were re-identified by a different set of discriminate analyses by Harris as M. mogollonensis. Clarification may depend on discovery of skull material from the region.


Wisconsin: Anthony Gap Cave (Smartt 1977); Whut Cave (Smartt and Hafner 1989).

Mid Wisconsin: Long Canyon, NV.

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Glendale (Jefferson et al. 2015); Shelter Cave (Smartt 1977: cf.).

Late Wisconsin: Marmot Cave (Thompson and Morgan 2001); Sandia Cave (Thompson and Morgan 2001)

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Howell's Ridge Cave (Smartt 1977) .

Literature. Jefferson et al. 2015; Smartt 1977; Smartt and Hafner 1989; Thompson and Morgan 2001.


Microtus ochrogaster (Wagner 1842)—Prairie VolePleistocene distribution of Microtus ochrogaster.

As implied by the name, the Prairie Vole is predominately a grassland animal whose geographic range is centered in the Great Plains. Occurrence in our region now is limited to extreme northeastern New Mexico. Fossils of the vole were present at Dry Cave in pre-pleniglacial and post-pleniglacial faunas, but not during the Wisconsin maximum. The occurrence at Atlatl Cave in northwestern New Mexico is Holocene and not mapped, but provided to emphasize the rapidity with which impressive range changes may occur.

Fig. 1. Camera lucida drawings of the m1 of Microtus ochrogaster from three Dry Cave sites. After Harris (1988).

Camera lucida drawing of m1 of Prairie VoleThe confluence of the wings posterior to the anterior cap is typical of M. ochrogaster (Fig. 1), but it's expectable that occasionally teeth of other species will mimic this condition. Smartt (1977) reported a single specimen of M. ochrogaster (32-213) from Howell's Ridge Cave. C. A. Repenning (in litt. to A. H. Harris) examined the specimen and concluded it was an aberrant M. mexicanus (=M. mogollonensis), and Harris (1988) agreed. Harris (1989) reported a single specimen (5689-153-213) from U-Bar Cave as questionably representing this species; the specimen has been re-examined and probably also represents an aberrant tooth of some other species. Both records are withdrawn.


Early/Early-Mid Wisconsin: Lost Valley (Harris 1988).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Tebedge 1988); Hampton Court (Harris 1993c); Pit N&W Animal Fair (Harris 1988).

Late Wisconsin: Algerita Blossom Cave (Harris 1993c); Animal Fair 18-20 ka (Harris 1988); Bison Chamber (Harris 1988); Blackwater Loc. No. 1 (Morgan and Lucas 2005: ?); Harris' Pocket (Harris 1988); Muskox Cave (Logan 1981); Stalag 17 (Harris 1988); TT II (Harris 1988).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Balcony Room (Harris 1988).

Middle Holocene: Atlatl Cave (Gillespie 1985).

Literature. Gillespie 1985; Harris 1988, 1993c; Logan 1981; Morgan and Lucas 2005; Smartt 1977; Tebedge 1988.


Microtus pennsylvanicus (Ord 1815)—Meadow VolePleistocene distribution of Microtus pennsylvanicus.

Synonyms. Microtus mordax.

Microtus pennsylvanicus is widespread in the U.S. in mesic habitats. In the Southwest, it tends to be associated especially with sedge habitats. It still occurs in the northern mountains and northeastern New Mexico and along the San Juan River in the northwestern part of the state. Several localities farther south, associated with permanent water, were inhabited historically but have become locally extinct with human impact. A colony survives in northern Chihuahua.

Presence as fossils strongly suggests climates or local microhabitats mesic enough to support healthy sedge communities or grass growth heavy enough to provide food and cover.

The Holocene Khulo Site (Smartt 1977) is included here since it documents survival of a basically Pleistocene distribution into the post-Pleistocene.


Rancholabrean: Alkali Flat (Morgan and Lucas 2005: cf.).

Wisconsin: Anthony Gap Cave (Smartt 1977); White Lake (Harris 1993c).

Mid Wisconsin: Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003: ?); U-Bar Cave (Harris 1987).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (UTEP cf.)

Mid/Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Jimenez Cave (Messing 1986); Sierra Diablo Cave (UTEP).

Late Wisconsin: Algerita Blossom Cave (Harris 1993c); Animal Fair 18-20 ka (Harris 1989); Arroyo de las Tinajas 7A (UTEP); Balcony Room (UTEP); Blackwater Loc. No. 1 (Slaughter 1975); Harris' Pocket (Harris 1993c); Hermit's Cave (Harris 1993c); Human Corridor (Harris 1993c); Marmot Cave (Thompson and Morgan 2001); Muskox Cave (Logan 1981); Sandia Cave (Thompson and Morgan 2001); SLP 1, Sierra de los Pinos/Palo Duro Canyon (UTEP); TT II (Harris 1993c); U-Bar Cave 14-15 ka (Harris 1989).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Bat Cave (Scarbrough 1986); Burnet Cave (Schultz and Howard 1935); Howell's Ridge Cave (Smartt 1977); Isleta Cave No. 1 (Harris 1993c: cf.).

Holocene: Khulo Site (Smartt 1977).

Literature. Harris 1987, 1989, 1993c; Logan 1981; Messing 1986; Morgan and Lucas 2005; Scarbrough 1986; Schultz and Howard 1935; Slaughter 1975; Smartt 1977; Thompson and Morgan 2001.


Last Update: 7 Jan 2016