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Isotopic Evidence for Niche Partitioning and the Influence of Anthropogenic Disturbance on Endemic and Introduced Rodents in Central Madagascar

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Isotopic Evidence for Niche Partitioning and the Influence of Anthropogenic Disturbance on Endemic and Introduced Rodents in Central Madagascar

Brooke Erin Crowley et al. Naturwissenschaften.

Abstract

We applied a multi-isotope approach to examine aspects of niche partitioning, competition, and mobility for rodents in the Central Highlands of Madagascar. Specifically, we used carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N), and strontium (87Sr/86Sr) isotope ratios in bone to investigate diet and mobility for endemic tufted tail rats (Eliurus spp.), and introduced black rats (Rattus rattus) and house mice (Mus musculus) within and outside a fragment of montane humid forest in the Ambohitantely Special Reserve. There was a clear spatial segregation in trapping success for different species: Eliurus was only in the forest interior and edge, Mus only outside of the fragment in a marsh and park housing complex, and Rattus in all habitats except the housing complex. We find only moderate support for mobility of rodents among habitats. Mus may routinely move between the marsh and housing complex. However, regular movement between the forest edge and interior, or between the forest fragment and surrounding grassland is not supported. Taxa appear to target different foods: Rattus tends to feed at a higher trophic level than Eliurus, and Mus consumes some C4 resources. To date, strontium isotopes have been underutilized in ecological research. Here, we show that they are highly complementary to carbon and nitrogen isotope data. Even in localities with relatively uniform underlying geology, it may be possible to distinguish individuals that regularly forage in different habitats.

Keywords: 87Sr/86Sr; Ambohitantely; Muridae; Nesomyinae; δ13C; δ15N.

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