Protection against predators with short grass? This principle appears to be followed by the Mongolian mouse. This is what the researchers write in a specialized journal.
Mongolian Brandt rats will mow the grass in front of their burrows to get a better view of their predators. This is the surprising discovery made by a team of researchers from the United Kingdom, the United States and China.
As the scientists explain in Current Biology, the mice’s behavior is in line with the emergence of a species of bird known as the shrike, a predator in the Mongolian grasslands.
When screeching was present, the mare significantly reduced the amount of grass growing in clumps, said Dirk Sanders of the University of Exeter, according to a statement from the university. This means that strangers come more often. Birds seem to realize that areas with short grass are poor hunting grounds. On the other hand, if there are no birds or they are kept away with nets, the mice stop trimming the lawn. Because the activity, which researchers call “ecosystem engineering,” costs so much energy, it should represent a significant survival advantage, according to Sanders. The study shows that the loss of a single type of food chain network can lead to an unexpected change in an entire habitat.
Researcher Zhiwei Zhong, from Northeast Normal University in China, who was also involved in the study, added that the study results could be useful for controlling rodent populations in grazing lands. “Maintaining or planting tall grasses that grow in clumps can help attract shrikes, thus reducing mouse numbers,” Chung said, according to the statement. (dpa)
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