Feeding habits of introduced black rats, Rattus rattus, in nesting colonies of Galapagos petrel on San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos

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Introduced rodents are responsible for ecosystem changes in islands around the world. In the Galapagos archipelago, their effects on the native flora and fauna are adverse, including the extinction of endemic rodents in some islands and the reduction in the reproductive success of the Galapagos petrel (Pterodroma phaeopygia) in its nesting zones. Understanding the feeding behavior of introduced rodents and their trophic interactions with native and non-native species on islands, can assist in the design of management strategies and conservation plans of invasive and endemic species respectively. Four petrel nesting colonies were monitored during June 2013 on San Cristóbal Island (El Plátano, El Junco, San Joaquín, and La Comuna). The feeding habits of black rats were evaluated by analyzing stomach contents and stable isotopes in hair. Three species of introduced rodents were captured. R. rattus was the most abundant at all sites (n=43, capture success (CS) = 55.8%), followed by the house mouse, Mus musculus (n = 17, CS = 37.8%), and the Norwegian rat, R. norvegicus (n = 4, CS = 4.5%), captured only at La Comuna. The omnivorous black rat ate mostly plants (98%) and arthropods (2%). Intact seeds of Miconia robinsoniana were the main food at all sites (relative abundance=72.1%, present in 95% of the analyzed stomachs), showing the black rats' possible role in the archipelago as endemic seed dispersers. There was no evidence of petrel's intake; however, its possible consumption is not discarded at all. The δ15 N and δ13C analysis corroborated the primarily herbivorous diet of black rats. The isotopic signatures of the three rodent species reflect the inter- and intra-specific differential use of food resources. Black rat showed a wider diet in La Comuna, which was related to a lower availability of its primary prey and its ability to adapt to the available resources in its habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0127901
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - 18 May 2015


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