Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 1037–1048 | Cite as

Dietary niche differentiation among three species of invasive rodents (Rattus rattus, R. exulans, Mus musculus)

  • Aaron B. Shiels
  • Caitlin A. Flores
  • Arthur Khamsing
  • Paul D. Krushelnycky
  • Stephen M. Mosher
  • Donald R. Drake
Original Paper


The diets of sympatric rodents partially define their realized niches. Identifying items in stomachs of introduced rodents helps determine rodents’ trophic positions and species most at risk of consumption. In the Hawaiian Islands, which lacked rodents prior to human arrival, three rodents (Rattus rattus or black rat, R. exulans or Pacific rat, Mus musculus or house mouse) commonly coexist in native habitats where they consume a wide range of plants and animals. These three rodent species were trapped in montane forest for 2.5 years; their stomach contents were analyzed to determine short-term diets (n = 12–95 indiv. per species), and isotopic fractions of δ15N and δ13C in their bone collagen were analyzed to further estimate their trophic positions (n = 11–20 indiv. per species). For all three species, >75 % of individuals had plants and >90 % had arthropods in their stomachs, and significant differences in mean relative abundances were found for food items in stomachs among all three rodents. Rodents may be dispersing some native and non-native seeds, including the highly invasive Clidemia hirta. Most identifiable arthropods in rodent stomachs were non-native, and no stomachs contained birds, snails, or lizards. The δ15N and δ13C signatures were consistent with trophic feeding differences revealed from stomach contents. Dietary niche differentiation by coexisting rodent species is evident in this forest, with Pacific rats being intermediate between the mostly carnivorous house mouse and the mostly herbivorous black rat; such findings can help forecast rodent impacts and direct management efforts in ecosystems where these invasive animals coexist.


Arthropod prey Fruit and seed diet Hawaiian Islands Stable isotopes δ13δ15



Primary funding was provided by the Oahu Army Natural Resources Program; additional funding to A.B.S. was from the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (Maybell Roth Scholarship in Conservation Biology and Sarah Martin Award in Botany), the Charles Lamoureux Plant Conservation Fellowship, and the Watson Yoshimoto Wildlife Conservation Scholarship. Thanks to K. Kawelo, D. Peters, J. Rohrer, and L. Wilson for assistance capturing rodents, J. Liebherr for the B. epicurus identification, and C. Daehler, T. Hunt, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This research was approved by the University of Hawaii Animal Use and Care Committee.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron B. Shiels
    • 1
  • Caitlin A. Flores
    • 2
  • Arthur Khamsing
    • 3
  • Paul D. Krushelnycky
    • 4
  • Stephen M. Mosher
    • 5
  • Donald R. Drake
    • 6
  1. 1.USDA, APHIS, National Wildlife Research CenterHiloUSA
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental ManagementHonoluluUSA
  4. 4.Department of Plant and Environmental Protection SciencesHonoluluUSA
  5. 5.Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas, US NavySanta RitaUSA
  6. 6.Department of BotanyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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