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Social Interaction of Rats as Indicated By Trapping Procedures

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The analysis of double and triple catches of Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus) in box traps permits an examination of the interaction according to sex and to recapture status. It was found that in 518 double catches and 144 triple catches the number of pairs of males was significantly less than the number expected by chance (using single catches for an estimate of the true proportion of males). These results are interpreted as indicating that males repulse one another in agreement with the known belligerency of males. Similarly the simultaneous captures of marked and unmarked rats (when both belonged to the same sex) were less than expected by chance. These results are interpreted as indicating that a marked rat drives away an unmarked rat (if it belongs to the same sex). These interpretations cast doubt upon the applicability of recapture data for the estimation of population since there is a tendency for marked rats to repulse unmarked. Also sex ratios calculated from multiple catches may be erroneous because males repulse males.

Affiliations: 1: Division of Vertebrate Ecology, John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health


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