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Keywords:

  • activity pattern;
  • central place foraging;
  • food choice;
  • predation risk;
  • single-prey loader;
  • Brants' whistling rat;
  • Parotomys brantsii

Abstract

The hypothesis that Brants' whistling rat Parotomys brantsii is a central place forager, whose foraging decisions are modified by (a) predation risk, (b) time of day, and (c) food choice, was tested. Field observations showed that whistling rats followed central place foraging rules for a single-prey loader and much of their food material was brought back to burrow entrances to feed on, with larger food items being carried back greater distances than small ones. Small food items were consumed in situ more often than large ones, suggesting that predation risk may also play a role in their foraging behaviour. Larger food items were preferentially stored at burrow entrances or carried underground, whilst smaller items tended to be consumed immediately. Individuals foraged more actively in the afternoon than in the morning and, although there was no tendency for individuals to eat more food at this time, far more food was stored or taken underground during the afternoon. Different foraging strategies were used for different plant species with some species preferentially eaten, and others stored or taken below ground more frequently. This study shows that the foraging behaviour of Brants' whistling rats is complex, and whilst they may follow simple central place foraging strategies, other factors such as the time of day and food plant species also influence their foraging behaviour.