The diet and impact of house mice on a sub-Antarctic island

Smith V.R. ; Avenant N.L. ; Chown S.L. (2002)


An analysis of the stomach contents of house mice (Mus musculus L.) at three sites on Marion Island (47°S, 38°E) over a 1-year period showed that the mice feed mostly on terrestrial macroinvertebrates but that plants (mainly seed) are an important component of the diet in mid- to late summer. Larvae of a flightless moth, weevil larvae and adults and, at one of the sites, earthworms were the invertebrate items that showed the highest importance value over the year. Diet diversity was slightly lower in summer and autumn than in winter and spring. Diet variety was lowest in midsummer and highest in either autumn or winter, depending on the site. Mean stomach-content mass was significantly higher in midwinter than during the rest of the year. When offered prey of different types and sizes, mice selected moth larvae first in 92% of the trials; earthworms or weevil adults were most frequently selected second, and weevil larvae fourth. An introduced slug species was selected only once, as the last choice and only part of it was eaten. With both moth larvae and earthworms, the heaviest individual offered was almost always chosen first. Surprisingly, mice never consumed more than about half of the seed offered to them and their condition deteriorated severely during the trials with seed; in a third of the trials with two types of seed, the mice completely ignored the seed. The impact of mice predation on invertebrates was assessed at two of the sites - a dry mire and a coastal biotic herbfield that is influenced by seabird and seal manuring. Moth larvae and adults, weevil larvae and adults, earthworms, spiders and flies made up > 90% of the animal remains in the stomach contents over the year and, on average, the mice daily consumed 45 g (dry mass) ha-1 of those invertebrates at the mire and 194 g ha-1 at the biotic site. Moth larvae made up a substantial proportion of these amounts; average daily consumption was 30 g ha-1 at the mire and 107 g ha-1 at the biotic site. In terms of the amount consumed in relation to biomass, the heaviest impact of mice at both sites was on weevil adults; at the biotic site mice daily consumed 13% of weevil adult biomass in autumn and nearly 6 times the annual average biomass over the year. At the mire, slightly more than the annual average weevil adult biomass was consumed over the year. The consumption of invertebrates by mice found in this study (1992/1993) was about 20% greater than in 1979/1980. The most striking changes in annual average consumption rate between 1979/1980 and 1992/1993 were for weevil larvae (increased nearly fourfold) and earthworms (increased sixfold at the biotic site and threefold at the mire). In contrast, the consumption of spiders at both sites decreased between 1979/1980 and 1992/1993.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL:
This item appears in the following collections: