Introduced mammals coexist with seabirds at New Island, Falkland Islands: abundance, habitat preferences, and stable isotope analysis of diet

Quillfeldt, P., Schenk, I., McGill, R.A.R. , Strange, I.J., Masello, J.F., Gladbach, A., Roesch, V. and Furness, R.W. (2008) Introduced mammals coexist with seabirds at New Island, Falkland Islands: abundance, habitat preferences, and stable isotope analysis of diet. Polar Biology, 31(3), pp. 333-349. (doi: 10.1007/s00300-007-0363-2)

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The largest known colony of Thin-billed prions Pachyptila belcheri has been coexisting with introduced mammals for more than 100 years. Three of the introduced mammals are potential predators of adults, eggs and chicks, namely ship rats Rattus rattus, house mice Mus musculus and feral cats Felis catus. We here determine habitat preferences over three seasons and dietary patterns of the unique set of introduced predators at New Island, Falkland Islands, with emphasis on the ship rats. Our study highlights spatial and temporal differences in the levels of interaction between predators and native seabirds. Rats and mice had a preference for areas providing cover in the form of the native tussac grass Parodiochloa flabellata or introduced gorse Ulex europaeus. Their diet differed markedly between areas, over the season and between age groups in rats. During the incubation period of the prions in November-December, ship rats had mixed diets, composed mainly of plants and mammals, while only 3% of rats had ingested birds. The proportion of ingested birds, including scavenged, increased in the prion chick-rearing period, when 60% of the rats consumed prions. We used delta C-13 and delta N-15 to compare the importance of marine-derived food between mammal species and individuals, and found that rats in all but one area took diet of partly marine origin, prions being the most frequently encountered marine food. Most house mice at New Island mainly had terrestrial diet. The stable isotope analysis of tissues with different turnover times indicated that individual rats and mice were consistent in their diet over weeks, but opportunistic in the short term. Some individuals (12% of rats and 7% of mice) were highly specialized in marine-derived food. According to the isotope ratios in a small sample of cat faeces, rodents and rabbits were the chief prey of cats at New Island. Although some individuals of all three predators supplement their terrestrial diet with marine-derived food, the current impact of predation by mammals on the large population of Thin-billed prions at New Island appears small due to a number of factors, including the small size of rodent populations and restriction mainly to small areas providing cover

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Furness, Professor Robert and McGill, Dr Rona
Authors: Quillfeldt, P., Schenk, I., McGill, R.A.R., Strange, I.J., Masello, J.F., Gladbach, A., Roesch, V., and Furness, R.W.
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Polar Biology

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