Here at The Optimist Daily, we commonly report on new ecological findings from animals all around the world. The more scientists uncover about the behavior and lives of the creatures we share the world with the better able we are to help them.
Protection from predators
A new study carried out by China, the UK, and the US has uncovered some interesting behavior of voles, a tiny rodent much like a hamster. The study focused on Brandt’s voles which inhabit grasslands in Inner Mongolia, where they are hunted by birds called shrikes which spot their prey from above.
To give them a better chance of spotting their predators, the voles cut down tall bunchgrass around their dens allowing them to make a quick escape. “When shrikes were present, the voles dramatically decreased the volume of bunchgrass,” said Dr. Dirk Sanders, from the University of Exeter. “This led to fewer visits from shrikes – which apparently recognize cut-grass areas as poor hunting grounds.
The paper, published in Current Biology, also states that when the number of shrikes above reduced, less grass cutting occurred. The voles have adapted to use this technique sparingly as this behavior uses up a lot of energy.
In essence, Brandt’s voles impressively engineer the ecosystem to increase their chance of survival. “We sometimes underestimate the ability of wild animals to react to changes in their environment… Our findings are a reminder that species show remarkable adaptations. It also underlines that the loss of even a single species in a food web can result in unexpected changes to an entire habitat,” Sanders added.
Source study: Current Biology – A rodent herbivore reduces its predation risk through ecosystem engineering