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Foraging behaviour of two rodent species inhabiting a kopje (rocky outcrop) in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya

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Author(s): Benjamin G. Fanson | Kerry V. Fanson | Joel S. Brown

Journal: African Zoology
ISSN 1562-7020

Volume: 43;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: giving-up densities | foraging ecology | kopje | lunar.

ABSTRACT
We employed patch use theory to evaluate how several environmental factors influence the foraging behaviour of two rodent species: Grammomys dolichurus and Acomys cahirinus. Foraging efficiency was determined by measuring the remaining food in artificial food patches (giving-up densities: GUDs) from two experiments. In the first experiment, we placed patches in different microhabitat types (cover vs open) and at varying distances from cover. This experiment was conducted during three moon stages (waxing, full, waning).We found that the rodents had higher GUDs (lower foraging efficiency) in the open microhabitat. The distance from nearest shelter had a marginally significant positive effect on GUDs. GUDs were higher in both microhabitat types during the waxing and full phases, but decreased sharply once the moon began to rise after sunset. These results are likely due to higher predation risk away from cover and in more illuminated environments. In the second experiment, we examined mouse responses to seeds impregnated with plant toxins. Seeds impregnated with oxalic acid were avoided by the rodents, while seeds soaked in tannic acid did not differ significantly from control seeds. Our results highlight important ecological factors affecting the foraging behaviour of these rodents.
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