Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Biology

Major Professor

Earl D. McCoy, Ph.D.

Keywords

Habitat use, Peromyscus gossypinus, Enclosures, Light, Giving-up density

Abstract

The perception of increased predation risk by nocturnal mice and other small mammals has been shown to reduce activity levels, particularly in foraging effort. Various cues of predation risk have been used in previous studies, but few have assessed the potential interactions between different types of cues. I conducted field, laboratory, and enclosure experiments using predator scents, artificial light, and microhabitat variables to determine the effects of direct and indirect cues of predation risk on foraging behavior in wild nocturnal mice. Experimental foraging trays served as artificial resource patches, and giving-up densities were measured in order to test for foraging persistence in patches exposed to cues of predation risk. Cotton mice (Peromyscus gossypinus) were used in laboratory and enclosure trials, and were the most common mice present at the sites used for field trials.

Although previous foraging studies have used other Peromyscus species, this species has not been tested, but ranges over densely populated areas of the United States where artificial light could potentially affect its behavior. The perception of increased predation risk by nocturnal mice and other small mammals has been shown to reduce activity levels, particularly in foraging effort. Various cues of predation risk have been used in previous studies, but few have assessed the potential interactions between different types of cues. I conducted field, laboratory, and enclosure experiments using predator scents, artificial light, and microhabitat variables to determine the effects of direct and indirect cues of predation risk on foraging behavior in wild nocturnal mice. Experimental foraging trays served as artificial resource patches, and giving-up densities were measured in order to test for foraging persistence in patches exposed to cues of predation risk.

Cotton mice (Peromyscus gossypinus) were used in laboratory and enclosure trials, and were the most common mice present at the sites used for field trials. Although previous foraging studies have used other Peromyscus species, this species has not been tested, but ranges over densely populated areas of the United States where artificial light could potentially affect its behavior. In outdoor and laboratory enclosures, cotton mice showed no aversive response to bobcat urine, cloths rubbed on cats, or snake sheds, but did exhibit avoidance of cat fur and artificial light. In the field experiment, mice showed a strong preference for covered microhabitats, but did not avoid bobcat urine or artificial light. Foraging in artificial resource patches also increased throughout the duration of the field experiment, possibly coinciding with a reduction in naturally-available forage. Mice in this population appear to use cover as their primary means of avoiding detection or capture by predators, though they do avoid artificial light and at least one fur-derived odor when their available options for escape are reduced.

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