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Keywords:

  • food addition;
  • paradox of enrichment;
  • Pterygodermatities permoysci;
  • pulsed resources;
  • seasonal nutrition

Summary

  • 1
    Masting events in the autumn provide a carbohydrate-rich pulse of resources that can influence the dynamics of small mammals and their natural enemies. Similar patterns are observed with the periodical cicada emergence which provides a protein-rich pulse in the spring, but comparisons are confounded by timing and food type.
  • 2
    We compared the influence of a naturally occurring spring pulse of cicadas with an experimental spring pulse of carbohydrate-rich seeds. We used a replicated population level field experiment and capture–mark–recapture techniques to record the vital rates, demographics, and abundance of Peromyscus leucopus (the white-footed mouse), as well as other small mammals and their parasites.
  • 3
    The density of P. leucopus on grids where cicadas emerged was 55% higher than controls as a consequence of early breeding. This was followed by an increase in the prevalence of the nematode Pterygodermatities peromysci, reduced breeding and decreased recruitment rates. Other small mammals including Tamias striatus (eastern chipmunk) and Blarina brevicauda (short-tailed shrew), increased in density, but there was no affect on Sorex cinereus (masked shrew).
  • 4
    In contrast to the presence of cicadas, there was no influence of sunflower seed supplementation on small mammal density, vital rates, or reproduction with the exception of an increase in B. brevicauda density. The response of small mammals to seasonal pulses depends on timing, food type, and species.