Demography and habitat selection of small mammals on Zomba Plateau, Malawi



Small mammals were studied in tow montane grassland-forest areas on Zomba Plateau (1900m), Malawi, in 1984–85. Seasonal changes in numbers, age-structure and reproduction are given for the three commonest species. Mus triton (36%), Praomys delectorum (29%), and Lophuromys flavopunctatus (19%). Total population numbers for L. flavopunctatus and P. delectorum were lowest at the end of the dry season, and highest at the end of the wet season; reproduction is seasonal, and most young are born in the wet season. Mus triton did not exhibit such large fluctuations in numbers, and reproduced in both wet and early dry seasons. Each species was found in several habitats, but L. flavopunctatus showed a strong preference for unburnt grasslands, M. triton for burnt grasslands, and P. delectorum for forest and tangle habitats. Each species had a different population survival rate, and few individuals survived for more than 5–6 months. Trapped-revealed home ranges were about 3100 m2 for L. flavopunctatus, and 2700 m2 for M. triton. Monthly changes in grass biomass, cover and height were recorded and related to the numbers of small mammals. General features of the small mammals of African mountains, based on data from the Drakensberg, Ethiopia and this study. are presented.