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Introduced predators and cavity-nesting seabirds: unexpected low level of interaction at breeding sites

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Abstract:

The mechanisms by which introduced predators and long-lived seabirds interact and even coexist are still poorly known. Here, the interactions between the widely introduced black rat (Rattus rattus (L., 1758)) and an endemic Mediterranean cavity-nesting seabird, the yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan (Acerbi, 1827)), were for the first time investigated for a set of 60 suitable breeding cavities throughout the entire breeding cycle of this seabird. Our results pointed out that rat visits to cavities were significantly higher when shearwaters had left the colony for their interbreeding exodus. Among the set of suitable breeding cavities, yelkouan shearwaters preferentially selected the deepest and the most winding cavities for breeding. Very few rat visits were recorded at the shearwater-occupied cavities and no predation event was recorded. These intriguing results reveal a low level of interaction between introduced black rats and yelkouan shearwaters, which may have facilitated their long-term coexistence for thousands of years on some Mediterranean islands.

Les mécanismes d’interaction et notamment de coexistence entre prédateurs introduits et oiseaux marins longévifs sont encore peu connus à l’heure actuelle. Ici, les interactions entre le rat noir (Rattus rattus (L., 1758)), espèce largement introduite sur les îles de la planète, et un oiseau marin longévif endémique de Méditerranée à nidification hypogée, le puffin yelkouan (Puffinus yelkouan (Acerbi, 1827)) ont été pour la première fois étudiées sur un lot de 60 cavités favorables à la reproduction du puffin tout au long du cycle de reproduction. Nos résultats ont montré que les visites de cavités par les rats sont significativement plus importantes lorsque les puffins ont quitté les colonies durant la phase internuptiale. Parmi l’ensemble des cavités favorables à la reproduction, ce sont les cavités les plus profondes et les plus sinueuses qui sont préférentiellement utilisées par les puffins. Très peu de visites de rats ont été enregistrées dans les cavités occupées par les puffins et aucun phénomène de prédation n’a été observé. De manière inattendue, ces résultats témoignent d’un faible degré d’interaction entre les rats noirs introduits et les puffins yelkouan, ce qui pourrait avoir facilité leur coexistence pluri-millénaire sur certaines îles de Méditerranée.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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