Effects of interspecific competition on food hoarding and pilferage in two sympatric rodents
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Food hoarding and pilferage in rodents may be regulated by intense competition between sympatric species that have similar habitats, diets and activity, but studies exploring this remain rare. Here, we used semi-natural enclosures to investigate food-hoarding and cache pilferage interactions between sympatric Korean field mice (KFM) (Apodemus peninsulae) and Chinese white-bellied rats (CWR) (Niviventer confucianus). KFM and CWR have similar diets, habitat and nocturnal activity, but the smaller KFM larder and scatter hoards and larger CWR larder hoard only. We found that KFM harvest, larder-hoard and eat seeds at a greater intensity when CWR are present as an audience (present but cannot pilfer). KFM ate 11.5%, re-larder-hoarded 17.9% and re-scatter-hoarded 1.3% of their scatter-hoarded seeds, and ate 29.3% of their larder-hoarded seeds when CWR were present as pilferers. A total of 12.8% of the seeds scatter-hoarded and 50% of seeds directly put on the ground by KFM were pilfered by CWR. CWR did not alter hoarding intensity in the presence of KFM and their stores cannot be pilfered by KFM. These results indicate that large-sized rodent species (more dominant) significantly increase the hoarding intensity of small-sized species and show a unidirectional pilferage of seeds cached by small-sized species. The behavioural differences between these two species may reduce competition for resources and promote coexistence between sympatric rodents.
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