Effects of rodent abundance and richness on cache pilfering

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© 2018 International Society of Zoological Sciences, Institute of Zoology/Chinese Academy of Sciences and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd Scatterhoarding is a common behavioral strategy to conserve food during periods of scarcity, but this type of food storage is vulnerable to theft or pilferage. A variety of environmental factors and cache characteristics influence the rate of pilferage. Here we investigate 2 environmental factors, which heretofore have not received much attention: the abundance and species richness of scatterhoarding animals in the vicinity of scatterhoarded seeds. We measured the rate of cache pilferage at 7 sites that differed in the number and species composition of granivorous rodents in western Nevada using local native seeds and sunflower seeds. We found that there was no difference between the pilferage rate of native seeds and sunflower seeds, but that sites with different rodent abundances had different pilferage rates. Pilferage rates were proportional to the abundance of scatterhoarding rodents. Scatterhoarding rodents removed seeds at the rate of 1.3%/day/rodent individual. Species richness of scatterhoarding rodents was not correlated with rates of pilferage. These results suggest that density-dependent competition for scatterhoarded seeds is a strong determinant of pilferage rates.

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Integrative Zoology

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