Foraging strategies of an insectivorous marsupial, Sminthopsis youngsoni (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae), in Australian sandridge desert



This study investigated the effects of predation risk, dune position and microhabitat on foraging of the Lesser Hairy-footed Dunnart Sminthopsis youngsoni, a small insectivorous marsupial, in the Simpson Desert of western Queensland. The intensity of foraging was assessed by establishing feeding stations (dishes containing mealworms) in open and bush microhabitats at three levels on sand dunes, and recording the numbers of prey taken by dunnarts from the stations after nightly bouts of foraging. Risk of predation was manipulated by provision of artificial illumination at alternate feeding stations on each of five occasions when trials were run. The numbers of mealworms left after feeding bouts varied inconsistently across trials, providing little evidence that dunnarts respond to habitat or predation risk while foraging. These results contrast sharply with studies of arid zone rodents, where foraging is usually sensitive to both predation risk and resource distribution. We suggest that S. youngsoni forages equally in all habitats of its sandridge environment, and experiences relatively low risk of predation whilst doing so.