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Cape to Cairo : Habitat Selection and Community Structure of South African and Egyptian Small Mammals

Abu Baker, Mohammad Adnan

Titre : Cape to Cairo : Habitat Selection and Community Structure of South African and Egyptian Small Mammals

Auteur : Abu Baker, Mohammad Adnan

Université de soutenance : UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2011

This dissertation explores the habitat selection and community structure of South African and Egyptian small mammals at different spatial scales. I studied the effect of “islands” of woody vegetation on habitat suitability for the striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio. I used live trapping, patch use behavior, and GIS. The islands increased the risk of predation, imposed negative edge effects on the striped mice, and decreased their suitable habitat from 59% to 45% of the study area. I tested for species coexistence within the small mammal and bird community inhabiting three habitats (grassland, short woodland, and a rocky hillside) using live-trapping, experimental food patches, and remote sensing cameras. The seven study species ( Rhabdomys pumilio, Mus minutoides, Dendromus melanotis, Micaelamys namaquensis, Aethomys ineptus, Elephantulus myurus, Francolinus natalensis) exhibited distinct habitat and activity patterns. Their organization across the habitats suggested that feeding opportunities are available in all habitats, however, the distinct patterns of spatial, temporal, and diet preferences provided the main mechanism of coexistence. I tested the effect of substrate features (foraging and escape substrates) and diet on the feeding behavior and habitat selection for E. myurus and M. namaquensis. E. myurus preferred foraging for mealworms in pebble substrates, whereas M. namaquensis favored foraging for seeds in sand. The results suggested that the foraging substrates and food types promote the coexistence of E. myterus and M. namaquensis and characterized their distinct niches. I applied a macroecology approach to investigate the local assembly of 29 species of Egyptian rodents across 335 using museum records housed at the Field Museum of Natural History. I used species distribution and local composition to investigate ecological processes that structure the local assemblages. The Egyptian sites have low species richness and substantial variability in species composition. The results showed that habitat requirements, low productivity, and Egypt’s location all influenced species assembly. Analyses from models of non-randomness provided evidence for negative species association and significant nestedness. Local assembly may have resulted from interspecific interactions, aridity and low productivity, habitat requirements. The harsh conditions of these arid regions led to the low species richness and prevalence of exclusion of sibling species.

Mots Clés : Psychology, Biological sciences, African small mammals, Egyptian small mammals, Habitat selection, Community structure, Giving up density, Species coexistence, Predation risk

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Page publiée le 25 mai 2012, mise à jour le 28 mars 2019