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Locomotion and postures of the Vietnamese pygmy dormouse Typhlomys chapensis (Platacanthomyidae, Rodentia): climbing and leaping in the blind

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Abstract

The Vietnamese pygmy dormouse is a small, arboreal, nocturnal, blind rodent that uses incipient echolocation to navigate in tree canopies. In order to assess its arboreal faculties in relation to echolocative capacity, the present study investigated the locomotor and postural behavior of the species in a simulated arboreal environment within an enclosure. The study subjects were intensively video and audio recorded and the two sets of data were synchronized for subsequent analyses. This is the first study on the positional behavior and substrate use of the Vietnamese pygmy dormice. Our results showed that the species spent most of its time on arboreal substrates, mostly traveling and scanning. Locomotion was dominated by vertical climb and leap, occurring mostly on small vertical and on medium and large strongly inclined substrates, respectively. Locomotion and substrate type were strongly related to emission of echolocative pulses. These findings most likely suggest that echolocation compensates for poor vision to effectively negotiate highly challenging arboreal constraints, and are in favor of the arboreal origins of pygmy dormice. Moreover, such a scenario could also support the echolocation-first hypothesis for the emergence of echolocation in bats prior to active flight.

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  • 10 July 2020

    The original article can be found online.

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Acknowledgements

This study would not have been accomplished without the aid of the following persons, to whom we are particularly thankful: Dr. A.V. Abramov captured the studied animals in Vietnam; Dr. A.N. Kuznetsov aided substantially with the experimental design; E.L. Yakhontov helped during the video recordings; Dr. V.G. Grinkov, V.A. Makarov, and Dr. E.N. Rakhimberdiev provided help with R. The audio recording was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (Grant No. 19-14-00037) for IAV. This work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (Grant No. 17-04-00954-a) for AAP and the Erasmus + International mobility fellowships for DY. Many thanks go to the constructive remarks of reviewers which greatly improved this manuscript.

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DY and MT carried out the behavioral analysis and wrote the manuscript, AAP designed the experiments, did the video recordings, performed the acoustic analysis and wrote the manuscript, IAV recorded the calls. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Dionisios Youlatos.

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Youlatos, D., Panyutina, A.A., Tsinoglou, M. et al. Locomotion and postures of the Vietnamese pygmy dormouse Typhlomys chapensis (Platacanthomyidae, Rodentia): climbing and leaping in the blind. Mamm Biol 100, 485–496 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42991-020-00043-9

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