Burrow Use and the Influence of Ectoparasites in Brants' Whistling Rat Parotomys brantsii


Corresponding author: Professor T. J. Roper, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK. E-mail: T.J.Roper@sussex.ac.uk


In Brants' whistling rat, Parotomys brantsii, single animals inhabit unusually complex burrow systems containing several nest chambers. We investigated burrow use and examined the effect of ectoparasites on choice of alternative nest chambers by radiotelemetrically monitoring the nocturnal sleeping locations of individual whistling rats, before and after treating them to remove ectoparasites. Prior to treatment, animals used several different nest chambers within a single burrow, moving from one chamber to another every 1.6 d on average, and most individuals also slept in more than one burrow. Anti-parasite treatment reduced the rate at which animals switched from one nest chamber to another within a burrow. Screening of a separate sample of animals for ectoparasites revealed that they were infested with fleas, mainly Xenopsylla eridos. We suggest that by switching periodically from one nest chamber to another, whistling rats reduce the rate at which ectoparasites, especially fleas, accumulate.