Original Papers


, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 145-152

First online:

Mammalian predation on termites: tests with the burrowing mouse (Oxymycterus roberti) and its prey

  • Kent H. RedfordAffiliated withMuseum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

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A laboratory study of mammalian predation on termites was conducted using the burrowing mouse (Oxymycterus roberti) and eight species of central Brazilian termites. The results of preference trials demonstrate that Oxymycterus discriminate between termite species and that the eight prey species fall into three groups: least preferred, most-preferred and a group of intermediate preference.

Preferences of Oxymycterus are not explained by the size or the nutritional quality of the termite species. However, three measures of termite soldier-based defense do correlate highly with preference. Termite species with soldiers exhibiting a mechanical or mixed defense are greatly preferred by Oxymycterus over species with soldiers exhibiting a chemical based defense. This chemical defense by termites is effective in severely limiting predation by small mammals.