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Microhabitat Use in Rodent Communities: Predator Avoidance or Foraging Economics?

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Coexisting rodent species often differ conspicuously in their habitat or microhabitat affinities, but it is not yet clear why. Speculation regarding the basis for microhabitat preference has focussed on two factors: predation risk and foraging economics. In this paper I outline these alternative explanations much more explicitly than they have been in the past and derive the expected consequences of each for patterns of morphology and microhabitat use within rodent communities. Then, using morphological traits that have been invoked in support of one explanation or the other, I compare observed patterns from three rodent communities with those expected if animals respond only to predation risk or physiological costs, or only to foraging efficiency, in choosing microhabitats. Patterns suggest that microhabitat use is more sensitive to foraging economics than risk or cost, but this conclusion should be viewed as tentative in light of the weaknesses associated with pattern analysis and in light of our general ignorance about the ecological significance of the morphological characteristics used in the analysis.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, U.S.A.


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