, Volume 98, Issue 10, pp 863-870
Date: 23 Aug 2011

Food preferences and mound-building behaviour of the mound-building mice Mus spicilegus

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Optimal foraging strategies and food choice are influenced by various factors, e.g. availability, size and caloric content of the food type and predation risk. However, food choice criteria may change when food is not eaten immediately but has to be carried to a storage site for later use. For example, handling time in terms of harvesting and transport time should be optimized, particularly when the risk of predation is high. Thus, it is not clear whether food selected by hoarding animals reflects their food preference due to intrinsic features of the food type, e.g. size, caloric or lipid content, or whether the food type selected is a compromise that also considers the handling time required for harvesting and transport. We investigate this question in relation to food hoarding behaviour in mound-building mice. In autumn, mound-building mice Mus spicilegus collect seeds and other plant material and cover it with soil. Such above-ground storage is quite unusual for rodents. Here, we investigated whether there is a relationship between the seed species preferred as building materials and those preferred for food. We conducted a seed preference test using three most collected weed species for mound building. Controlling factors like food availability or predation risk, mice prefer Setaria spp. as food, although Amaranthus spp. and Chenopodium spp. were preferentially harvested and stored. By including the availability of the three species, our experimental results were confirmed, namely, a clear preference for Setaria spp. Also, handling time and seed size revealed to influence plant choice.

Communicated by: Sven Thatje