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Interactions between the short-tailed mouse (Mus spretus) and the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus): diet overlap revealed by stable isotopes

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Extensive niche overlap between closely related species generally leads to aggressive interactions and competition. The short-tailed mouse (Mus spretus Lataste, 1883) and the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus (L., 1758)) show a large habitat overlap without aggressive interactions. The present study investigates the existence of food competition between these species, based on an analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes. An almost exhaustive sample of plants, which were potential food resources, was taken and analyzed to infer the consumed plants in mouse diets. The main result showed that both species had a similar diet composition, consisting exclusively of seeds and fruits. This suggests that no competition for food between these species is apparent, or if it exists it would be minimized by a differential exploitation of resources. In the absence of food and space competition,the short-tailed mouse may be using the presence of the wood mouse as an indicator of habitat food quality. In the case of wood mice, we hypothesize that the level of competition with short-tailed mice may be low because of the abundance of resources and because the wood mice may perceive the smaller short-tailed mouse as being equivalent to a young of their own species.

Keywords: Apodemus sylvaticus; Murinae; Mus spretus; chevauchement alimentaire; diet overlap; isotopes stables; micromammifères; mulot sylvestre; short-tailed mouse; small mammals; souris à queue courte; stable isotope analysis; wood mouse

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Université Laval, Faculté de foresterie, de géographie et de géomatique, 2405, rue de la Terrasse, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada. 2: Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution, UMR CNRS 5554, Université Montpellier 2, cc 064 34095 Montpellier CEDEX 05, France. 3: EcoLab, UMR CNRS 5245, Université Paul Sabatier, Campus ENSAT avenue de l’Agrobiopole, BP 32607e, 31326 Castanet Tolosan, France.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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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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