Habitat and sex effects on behaviour in fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rats (Melomys cervinipes)

Delarue, Emma M.P., Kerr, Sarah E., and Rymer, Tasmin L. (2020) Habitat and sex effects on behaviour in fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rats (Melomys cervinipes). Australian Mammalogy. (In Press)

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Abstract

Habitat complexity reflects resource availability and predation pressure - both factors that influence behaviour. We investigated whether exploratory behaviour and activity varied in fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rats (Melomys cervinipes) from two habitats that were categorised differently based on vegetation. We conducted vegetation surveys to determine structural complexity and vegetation cover, confirming that an abandoned hoop-pine (Araucaria cunninghami) plantation forest was structurally less complex, with lower vegetation cover than a variable secondary rainforest. We then tested mosaic-tailed rats from both sites in four behavioural tests designed to assess exploratory and activity behaviours (open field, novel object, light-dark box, acoustic startle), predicting that rats from the less structurally complex habitat would be less exploratory, and show lower activity. Our results provide some evidence for a contextspecific trade-off between exploratory behaviour and predation risk in rats from the abandoned hoop pine plantation, as rats were less active, and showed a freezing strategy in the light-dark box. We also found context-specific sex differences in behaviour in response to a novel object and sound. Our results suggest that small-scale variation in habitat structure and complexity, as well as sex differences, is associated with variation in behaviour, most likely through effects on resource availability and/or predation risk.

Item ID: 64951
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1836-7402
Keywords: activity, exploratory behaviour, habitat complexity, native rodent, predation risk, vegetation cover
Funders: James Cook University, North Queensland Wildlife Trust
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2020 07:41
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310901 Animal behaviour @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 20%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310308 Terrestrial ecology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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