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Desert Rodents

Desert Rodent

Desert Rodent

Rodentia comprises the single largest group of mammals (with the smallest members).The family Muridae contains over 1100 different species (rats, mice, voles, hamsters, etc.)Native on all continents except Antarctica Greatest diversity of form found in South America (isolated continent for most of the Cenozoic).Rodents all have a single pair of incisors in each jaw (grow continually through life).Thick enamel layers on the front but not on the back Large gap in the tooth rows (diastema), no canines, few molars. Large/complex jaw musculature.

Rodents are found native on all continents except Antarctica. One particular family of rodents, the Muridae, contains over 1100 species: over a quarter of all mammal species are rats, mice, voles, muskrats, lemmings, hamsters, gerbils, and other members of the Muridae. However, rodents show perhaps their greatest diversity of form in South America, which was an isolated continent for much of the Cenozoic. A few of these distinctive South American rodents include mountain viscachas, rabbit-like forms that inhabit dry mountainous regions; Patagonian cavies, very rabbit-like, fast-running forms with elongated ears and short tails; the coypu or nutria, a large marsh-dwelling rodent that has been introduced into North America and is hunted for its fur; and various burrowing forms such as pacas and tuco-tucos.

Food Habits: The food web in the hot desert biome is a simple one. Life in this hot, dry environment is challenging, requiring adaptations from both animals and plants. The soil is often dry, and desert winds carry fine dust particles away, leaving a stony landscape. Plants that live in the desert year round have evolved special adaptations for capturing and storing water. Adaptations include secreting a waxy substance to protect their leaves from drying out, thorns and spines to keep hungry animals at bay, and body shapes that can expand rapidly when water becomes available. Plants have large networks of roots that lie near the surface and can capture rain when it falls. One bush, the creosote bush, actually secretes a substance in its roots that keep other roots out of its feeding area.

Many desert plants no longer have leaves, or grow only very small ones. They have chlorophyll in their stems. Many cacti do not have leaves at all. Their rounded bodies have a low surface to volume ratio, and the spines that protect them also cast a little precious shade on their green bodies. Annual desert plants germinate, grow, and flower quickly when there is a rainy year. They make small, hard seeds that may not sprout for ten years or longer. Some perennial plants store moisture in underground tubers or bulbs.

The plant-eating animals are the primary consumers. These animals are small, and can get by on very little food. Some desert dwellers are insects, and some, such as snakes and lizards, are reptiles. Reptiles are “cold blooded” and they can survive on only a little food. The warmth of the desert sun heats their bodies so that they can move quickly. A few small warm-blooded animals, such as kangaroo also live here. They hide from the heat in burrows, and come out at night to feed.The secondary consumers eat the plant eaters. Lizards eat insects: snakes eat lizards, insects, and little desert rodents such as deer mice and kangaroo rats. Scorpions and tarrantulas also eat insects. They have exoskeletons, which help them to conserve moisture.All animals need protection from the sun during the heat of the day. There is no shade in the desert, but there are little crannies in the rocks where a small animal can find shelter. Some of the animals go into underground burrows, where the air is a little cooler.

Controls: Poison baits are an efficient mechanism to control rodents on rangelands. In 1964 the Leopold Committee recommended compound 1080 be banned as a rodenticide on rangelands because of secondary hazards. This left strychnine as the only rodenticide labelled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for range rodents control.Personnel at the Denver Wildlife Research Center (DWRC) subsequently found that strychnine poses hazards to humans and nontarget wildlife. The EPA is now reviewing all strychnine labels under the Rebuttable Presumption Against Registration (RPAR) process. Suggested modifications would cancel the current strychnine (0.50%) label and require a new (0.16%) label registration.

Desert Rodent

Desert Rodent

This concentration is untested for rangeland rodent control. Furthermore, chemical data indicate better toxicants (zinc phosphide) may be available.Wood (1965) investigated control of desert rangeland rodents by various techniques using compound 1080 and 0.50% strychnine treated oats. He determined that den baiting was the most effective technique for kangaroo rats with both toxicants. The efficacy of zinc phosphide and 0.16% strychnine oats in field applications on kangaroo rats is unknown. The objective of this study was to determine the efficacy of zinc phosphide rodent bait and two concentrations of strychnine treated oats on kangaroo rats during different seasons of treatment.

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