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Spatial ecology of the mulgara in arid Australia: impact of fire history on home range size and burrow use

Authors

  • G. Körtner,

    1. Zoology, Centre for Behavioural and Physiological Ecology, University of New England; Armidale NSW, Australia
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  • C. R. Pavey,

    1. Zoology, Centre for Behavioural and Physiological Ecology, University of New England; Armidale NSW, Australia
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    • *Permanent address: Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, PO Box 2130, Alice Springs NT 0871, Australia.

  • F. Geiser

    1. Zoology, Centre for Behavioural and Physiological Ecology, University of New England; Armidale NSW, Australia
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Correspondence
Gerhard Körtner, Zoology, Centre for Behavioural and Physiological Ecology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia. Tel: 02 6773 2262; Fax: 02 6773 3814
Email: gkoertne@une.edu.au

Abstract

Knowledge about the spatial ecology of small mammals in relation to fire history in arid zones in general and Australia in particular is limited. Here, we report data on the spatial ecology of the brush-tailed mulgara Dasycercus blythi in the hummock grasslands of Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park during winter 2006, the beginning of the breeding season for this species. About 73% of the study area had been burnt in 2002 and spinifex cover was sparse. Mulgaras Marsupialia: Dasyuridae (six males and three females) were implanted with radio-transmitters and monitored daily for between 6 and 55 days. All mulgaras appeared to use defined home ranges, which overlapped extensively with those of several neighbours. Spatial overlap occurred between as well as within sexes. On average, males (25.5 ha) occupied significantly larger home ranges than females (10.8 ha). Mulgaras used a number of burrows within home ranges and several were used by more than one individual. Moreover, occasionally, two individuals used the same burrow simultaneously. Home ranges and burrows encompassed both mature spinifex Triodia basedowii and open regrowth areas and mulgaras did not exhibit a significant preference for either habitat type. However, three males were killed by introduced-predators and they all lived predominantly in the open regrowth area. We conclude that mulgaras do not select the dense cover of mature spinifex habitat, and might be subjected to increased risk from introduced predators, especially following fire.

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