, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 303–309 | Cite as

Tactile discriminatory ability and foraging strategies in Kangaroo rats and pocket mice (Rodentia: Heteromyidae)

  • Debra K. Lawhon
  • Mark S. Hafner


A comparative study of seasonal food hoarding activity and tactile discriminatory ability in four species of heteromyid rodents (Dipodomys panamintinus, D. merriami, Perognathus longimembris, and P. formosus) was conducted in laboratory test arenas. Animals were tested individually to determine their treatment of seed (white millet) and seed mimics (glass beads and gravel) offered as food. In general, all animals showed low levels of millet hoarding activity during winter months with higher levels in fall and spring. Observations revealed that all species manipulated (with the forepaws) each potential food item prior to eating, pouching, or rejecting it. These tactile cues appear to surpass visual and olfactory cues as critical factors in distinguishing between food and food mimics. Pocket mice (Perognathus) showed high levels of tactile discriminatory ability which may serve as the mechanism by which they achieve high foraging efficiency in nature when “filter-feeding” for widely dispersed seed resources. Kangaroo rats (Dipodomys), on the other hand, are less adept at distinguishing between food and very similar non-food items. The fact that, in nature, kangaroo rats depend heavily on clumped food resources may obviate the need for highly efficient tactile discriminatory abilities.


Gravel Arena Food Item Critical Factor Food Resource 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brown JH (1973) Species diversity of seed-eating desert rodents in sand dune habitats. Ecology 54:775–787Google Scholar
  2. Brown JH (1975) Geographical ecology of desert rodents. In: Cody ML and Diamond JM (eds), Ecology and Evolution of Communities. Belknap Press of Harvard Univ Press, Cambridge, Mass. p 545Google Scholar
  3. Brown JH, Grover JJ, Davidson DW, Lieberman GA (1975) A preliminary study of seed predation in desert and montane habitats. Ecology 56:987–992Google Scholar
  4. Brown JH, Lieberman GA (1973) Resource utilization and coexistence of seed-eating desert rodents in sand-dune habitats. Ecology 54:788–797Google Scholar
  5. Brown JH, Reichman OJ, Davidson DW (1979) Granivory in desert ecosystems. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 10:201–227Google Scholar
  6. French AR (1976) Selection of high temperatures for hibernation by the pocket mouse, Perognathus longimembris: Ecological advantages and energetic consequences. Ecology 57:185–191Google Scholar
  7. French NR (1975) Activity patterns of a desert rodent. In: Prakash I and Ghosh PK (eds), Rodents in Desert Environments. W Junk, The Hague 225–239Google Scholar
  8. French NR, Maza BG, Hill HO, Aschwanden AP, Kaaz HW (1974) A population study of irradiated desert rodents. Ecol Monogr 44:45–72Google Scholar
  9. Hafner MS (1975) Species diversity and community interactions in Mojave Desert rodent communities. Unpubl. M.A. thesis, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA, USAGoogle Scholar
  10. Hawbecker AC (1940) The burrowing and feeding habits of Dipodomys venustus. J Mammal 21:389–396Google Scholar
  11. Hutto RL (1978) A mechanism for resource allocation among sympatric heteromyid rodent species. Oecologia (Berl) 33:115–126Google Scholar
  12. Kenagy GJ (1973) Daily and seasonal patterns of activity and energetics in a heteromyid rodent community. Ecology 54:1201–1219Google Scholar
  13. Lemen CA (1978) Seed size selection in heteromyids. Oecologia (Berl) 35:13–19Google Scholar
  14. Lemen CA, Rosenzweig ML (1978) Microhabitat selection in two species of heteromyid rodents. Oecologia (Berl) 33:127–135Google Scholar
  15. Lockard RB, Lockard JS (1971) Seed preference and buried seed retrival of Dipodomys deserti. J Mammal 52:219–221Google Scholar
  16. Price MV (1978a) The role of microhabitat in structuring desert rodent communities. Ecology 59:910–921Google Scholar
  17. Price MV (1978b) Seed dispersion preferences of coexisting desert rodent species. J Mammal 59:624–626Google Scholar
  18. Reichman OJ (1975) Relation of desert rodent diets to available resources. J Mammal 56:731–751Google Scholar
  19. Reichman OJ (1976) Relationships between dimensions, weights, volumes and calories of some Sonoran Desert seeds. Southwest Nat 20:573–575Google Scholar
  20. Reichman OJ, Oberstein D (1977) Selection of seed distribution types by Dipodomys merriami and Perognathus amplus. Ecology 58:636–643Google Scholar
  21. Rosenzweig ML (1973) Habitat selection experiments with a pair of coexisting hetermyid rodent species. Ecology 54:111–117Google Scholar
  22. Shaw WT (1934) The ability of the Giant Kangaroo Rat as a harvester and storer of seeds. J Mammal 15:275–286Google Scholar
  23. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1973) Introduction to Biostatistics. San Francisco: WH Freeman & CoGoogle Scholar
  24. Smigel BW, Rosenzweig ML (1974) Experimental test for seed size selection and allocation in Dipodomys merriami and Perognathus penicillatus. Ecology 55:329–339Google Scholar
  25. Tappe DT (1941) Natural history of the Tulare kangaroo rat. J Mammal 22:117–148Google Scholar
  26. Trombulak SC, Kenagy GJ (1980) Effects of seed distribution and competitors on seed harvesting efficiency in heteromyid rodents. Oecologia (Berl) 44:342–346Google Scholar
  27. Tucker VA (1962) Diurnal torpidity in the California pocket mouse. Science 136:380–381Google Scholar
  28. Tucker VA (1966) Diurnal torpor and its relation to food consumption and weight change in the California pocket mouse, Perognathus californicus. Ecology 47:245–252Google Scholar
  29. Wallace RJ (1978) Hoarding of inedible objects by albino rats. Behav Biol 23:409–414Google Scholar
  30. Wondolleck JT (1978) Forage-area separation and overlap in heteromyid rodents. J Mammal 59:510–518Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Debra K. Lawhon
    • 1
  • Mark S. Hafner
    • 2
  1. 1.Museum of Vertebrate ZoologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Museum of ZoologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

Personalised recommendations