Mammalian Biology

, Volume 79, Issue 5, pp 313–317 | Cite as

Vertical habitat segregation as a mechanism for coexistence in sympatric rodents

  • Peter LeimgruberEmail author
  • William J. McShea
  • Melissa Songer
Original Investigation


Coexistence has been widely studied in small mammals and frequently is assumed to be facilitated by habitat segregation. Using live trapping and spool-and-line experiments, we analyzed habitat selection and segregation across multiples scales for Peromyscus leucopus and Ochrotomys nuttalli. At the habitat scale of a forest stand (~1-100s ha) P. leucopus co-occurred at all sites where O. nuttalli was found, and we did not detect evidence of positive or negative associations or habitat segregation. However, O. nuttalli was restricted to early successional forests, and P. leucopus had significantly lower abundances in early successional forests than in other habitats. We found similar patterns at the mesohabitat scale of the study site (400 m2). O. nuttalli abundance increased with increasing shrub and tree densities, while increases in P. leucopus abundance were associated with open understories. At the microhabitat scale of the individual movement trail, we found vertical segregation. Movement trails for O. nuttalli were at significantly higher elevation (mean height = 142.93 ± 37.10 cm) than P. leucopus trails (mean height = 15.4 ± 4.98 cm; F-value = 35.29, p < 0.001). We concluded that microhabitat segregation was driven by differential use of vertical space for movement and foraging. We suggest O. nuttalli is superior to P. leucopus in its ability to acquire food especially in shrubby subcanopies where few acorns are available. However, P. leucopus is superior in its ability to forage and avoid predators.


Coexistence Microhabitat selection Vertical habitat segregation Spool-and-line experiments 


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Leimgruber
    • 1
    Email author
  • William J. McShea
    • 1
  • Melissa Songer
    • 1
  1. 1.Conservation Ecology CenterSmithsonian Conservation Biology InstituteFront RoyalUSA

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