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      Behavioral Responses of Wild Rodents to Owl Calls in an Austral Temperate Forest


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          Growing human populations are challenging scientists to find effective ways to control and mitigate human–wildlife conflict while preserving biodiversity. It has been reported that predator odor and calls can drive away rodents, but little is known about species-specific responses of prey. For these reasons, we compared the behavioral changes of common rodent species inhabiting the Chilean temperate forest ( Abrothrix spp., the long-tailed pygmy rice rat Oligoryzomys longicaudatus and the black rat Rattus rattus) when exposed to two different native predator calls (the austral pygmy owl Glaucidium nana and the rufous-legged owl Strix rufipes) and a control (no predator calls). Our results showed that all rodent species modified their behavior in the presence of predator calls, but the effects were species dependent. These findings point to the need to carefully study target rodent species instead of applying a general control plan for all rodent species.


          Ecologically based rodent management strategies are arising as a sustainable approach to rodent control, allowing us to preserve biodiversity while safeguarding human economic activities. Despite predator signals being known to generally repel rodents, few field-based studies have compared the behavioral effects of several predators on different prey species, especially in Neotropical ecosystems. Here, we used camera traps to study the behavior of rodent species native to the Chilean temperate forest ( Abrothrix spp., long-tailed pygmy rice rat Oligoryzomys longicaudatus) and an introduced rodent (black rat Rattus rattus). Using playbacks of raptor calls, we experimentally exposed rodents to three predation risk treatments: austral pygmy owl calls ( Glaucidium nana), rufous-legged owl calls ( Strix rufipes) and a control treatment (absence of owl calls). We evaluated the effects of the treatments on the time allocated to three behaviors: feeding time, locomotor activity and vigilance. Moonlight and vegetation cover were also considered in the analyses, as they can modify perceived predation risk. Results showed that predator calls and environmental factors modified prey behavior depending not only on the predator species, but also on the rodent species. Consequently, owl playbacks could be regarded as a promising rodent control tool, knowing that future studies would be critical to deeply understand differences between species in order to select the most effective predator cues.

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          Most cited references69

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          Temporal Variation in Danger Drives Antipredator Behavior: The Predation Risk Allocation Hypothesis

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            How many species of mammals are there?

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              Rodent-borne diseases and their risks for public health.

              Rodents are the most abundant and diversified order of living mammals in the world. Already since the Middle Ages we know that they can contribute to human disease, as black rats were associated with distribution of plague. However, also in modern times rodents form a threat for public health. In this review article a large number of pathogens that are directly or indirectly transmitted by rodents are described. Moreover, a simplified rodent disease model is discussed.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Animals (Basel)
                Animals (Basel)
                Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI
                07 February 2021
                February 2021
                : 11
                : 2
                : 428
                [1 ]Laboratory of Etho-Physiology, Department Biology (Unit Zoology), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, C/Darwin 2, Campus Universitario de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain; mariacarmen.hernandez@ 123456uam.es (M.C.H.); isabel.barja@ 123456uam.es (I.B.)
                [2 ]Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas Animales, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias y Pecuarias, Universidad de Chile, Santa Rosa 11735, La Pintana, Santiago 8820808, Chile; denise.jara.st@ 123456gmail.com
                [3 ]Departamento de Ecosistemas y Medio Ambiente, Facultad de Agronomía e Ingeniería Forestal, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago 8940000, Chile; asmunoz1@ 123456uc.cl (A.M.); bona@ 123456uc.cl (C.B.)
                [4 ]Escuela de Medicina Veterinaria, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago 8940000, Chile
                [5 ]Research Centre in Biodiversity and Global Change (CIBC-UAM), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: arubio@ 123456uchile.cl ; Tel.: +56-2-2978-0372

                These authors contributed equally to this work.

                Author information
                © 2021 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 11 November 2020
                : 04 February 2021

                landscape of fear,predation risk,predator–prey interactions,small mammals


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