The end of an 80-million year experiment: a review of evidence describing the impact of introduced rodents on New Zealand’s ‘mammal-free’ invertebrate fauna
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- Gibbs, G.W. Biol Invasions (2009) 11: 1587. doi:10.1007/s10530-008-9408-x
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Since separating from its super-continental origin 80 million years ago, New Zealand has effectively been isolated from the impacts of terrestrial mammals. The arrival of Polynesians in 13th C heralded the end of this era, with the introduction of kiore, (Rattus exulans, or Pacific rat), which had far-reaching effects on plant regeneration, survival of small ground vertebrates, larger invertebrates, and seabird breeding colonies. This paper reviews the evidence available from raptor nest sites and Quaternary beetle fossils to summarise extinctions thought to be caused by kiore in New Zealand. It also utilises invertebrate comparisons between islands with and without rats, or where rats have been eradicated, in order to document the impacts of rats (R. exulans, R. norvegicus) on invertebrate abundance, body mass, and the behavioural responses of some large New Zealand insects to the presence of rats. The role of a ‘mammal-free’ evolutionary history is discussed.