Year of the Rat – the role of rodents in plant ecology

To celebrate Chinese New Year we’ve compiled a list of rodent-related papers that have been published in Journal of Ecology. Rodents act as seed predators and seed dispersers for many different plant species.

While it’s the Year of the Rat we will be featuring research on many different members of the rodent family! Find out more about how these creatures interact with plants, both in China and across the globe.

Long‐term seed survival and dispersal dynamics in a rodent‐dispersed tree: testing the predator satiation hypothesis and the predator dispersal hypothesis
This eight year study investigated oil tea (Camellia oleifera) seed production in a subtropical forest in south‐west China. They discovered that seed and rodent abundance were related to seed dispersal and seed survival. Edward’s long‐tailed rat (Leopoldamys edwardsi) acted as the principal seed disperser because they cache seeds across scattered locations, whereas other rodent species acted only as seed predators.

Zhishu Xiao, Zhibin Zhang & Charles J. Krebs.

Photo: Leopoldamys edwardsi

Cascading effects of forested area and isolation on seed dispersal effectiveness of rodents on subtropical islands
The loss of large‐bodied mammals on small, isolated islands appears to drive altered food competition for rodents and also decreases the effectivenss of seed dispersal. Altered interactions between acorns and their rodent consumers/dispersers was found to substantially affect oak population structure on the islands of Thousand Island Lake, China.

Di Zeng, Robert K. Swihart, Yuhao Zhao, Xingfeng Si & Ping Ding

Photo: Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

Combined impact of multiple exotic herbivores on different life stages of an endangered plant endemism, Medicago citrina
Herbivores and granivores have a significant impact on plant abundance and population dynamics. This study examined the combined effect of multiple exotic herbivores, including black rats (Rattus rattus) and house mice (Mus musculus) on different life stages of an endangered plant species (Medicago citrina).

Lucía Latorre, Asier R. Larrinaga & Luis Santamaría

Photo: Medicago citrina

Proximity to roads disrupts rodents’ contributions to seed dispersal services and subsequent recruitment dynamics
Roads can reduce animal‐mediated seed dispersal services and disrupt recruitment dynamics in Oriental white oak (Quercus aliena) populations. Given that many rodents play a role in plant recruitment, these findings suggested that continued road expansion will cause profound changes in forest community composition and structure.

Wenwen Chen, Jie Zhong, Walter P. Carson, Zhanhui Tang, Zongqiang Xie, Shucun Sun & Youbing Zhou

Photo: Chinese pygmy dormouse (Typhlomys cinereus) by Alexei Abramov.

Seed dispersal by scatter‐hoarding rodents in arid environments
Desert peach (Prunus andersonii) has dry fruits and large seeds. It relies on scatter‐hoarding rodents for dispersal, however each species differs in their effectiveness as a seed disperser. Rodents that primarily larder‐hoard, such as Great Basin pocket mice (Perognathus parvus) and Panamint kangaroo rats (Dipodomys panamintinus), were found to be poor dispersers because they stored most nuts in larders too deep for seedlings to emerge.

Maurie J. Beck & Stephen B. Vander Wall

Photo: Prunus andersonii by Joe Decruyenaere

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s