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Trophic relationships of common frog (Rana temporaria) and pigmy shrew (Sorex minutus) in upland Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

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Abstract

The common frog and the pigmy shrew are common vertebrate predators in the uplands of Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. This report concerns their habitat preference and trophic biology which are poorly documented at higher altitudes. Frogs preferred damp, grassy, reclaimed habitats while pigmy shrews appeared to favour moorland dominated by Calluna vulgaris. Both frogs and shrews were absent from pitfall trap collections from December to February and numbers of both were low until late spring. This corresponded to the period of lowest invertebrate abundance. Examination of stomach contents suggests that frogs are less selective feeders and utilize a greater diversity of prey items than pigmy shrews. Although sample size is low early in the year, diversity of the diet of pigmy shrews apparently increased from the first to the second quarter and again in the third quarter of the year. This led to an increase in food niche overlap with frogs in late summer but at a time of year when food supply was greatest. It is unlikely, therefore, that dietary overlap constitutes a basis for interspecific competition between frogs and shrews. This is likely to be ameliorated by habitat and behavioural differences between the two predators.

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