Nutritional importance of seeds and arthropods to painted spiny pocket mice (Lyomis pictus): the effects of season and forest degradation

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Temporal and spatial fluctuations in food abundance may affect the feeding habits of vertebrates in tropical dry forests. We explored the effects of season and forest degradation in dietary patterns of the painted spiny pocket mouse (Lyomis pictus (Thomas, 1893)) (Heteromyidae) in a Mexican tropical dry forest. We used carbon (13C, 12C) and nitrogen (15N, 14N) stable isotope analyses to test the hypotheses that (iL. pictus would increase its use of arthropods during the rainy season when seeds are less available on the forest floor and (ii) that L. pictus would increase its use of arthropods in degraded forest compared with conserved forest. Our hypotheses were wrong because assimilated biomass was derived almost exclusively from seeds in both seasons and the importance of arthropods was marginal in both sites. Examination of food remains in feces and cheek pouches confirmed these trophic patterns. Seed hoarding during the season of high seed availability probably allows L. pictus to subsist on a seed-based diet throughout the year in conserved and disturbed forests. This behavioral trait would enable L. pictus to maintain its specialized feeding habit in environments threatened by habitat degradation.

Les fluctuations temporelles et spatiales de l’abondance de nourriture peuvent affecter les habitudes alimentaires des vertébrés dans les forêts tropicales sèches. Nous explorons les effets de la saison et de la dégradation de la forêt sur les patrons alimentaires de la souris épineuse à poche (Liomys pictus (Thomas, 1893)) (Heteromyidae) dans une forêt tropicale sèche du Mexique. Des analyses d’isotopes stables de carbon (13C, 12C) et d’azote (15N, 14N) nous ont servi à tester les hypothèses selon lesquelles (iL. pictus augmente son utilisation d’arthropodes durant la saison des pluies lorsque les graines sont moins disponibles sur le sol forestier et (iiL. pictus utilise plus les arthropodes dans la forêt dégradée par rapport à la forêt bien conservée. Nos hypothèses se sont avérées fausses, car la biomasse assimilée provient presque exclusivement des graines aux deux saisons et l’importance des arthropodes est marginale dans les deux sites. L’examen des restes de nourriture dans les fèces et dans les poches alimentaires des joues confirme ces patrons alimentaires. L’entreposage de graines durant la saison de forte disponibilité des graines permet probablement à L. pictus de subsister sur un régime alimentaire à base de graines durant toute l’année dans les forêts intactes et perturbées. Ce trait comportemental pourrait permettre à L. pictus de maintenir ses habitudes alimentaires spécialisées dans des milieux menacés par la dégradation des habitats.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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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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