U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Shiels, A.B., C.A. Flores, A. Khamsing, P.D. Krushelnycky, S.M. Mosher, and D.R. Drake. 2013. Dietary niche differentiation among three species of invasive rodents (Rattus rattus, R. exulans, Mus musculus). Biological Invasions 15:1037-1048. doi: 10.1007/s10530-012-0348-0.


U.S. government work.


The diets of sympatric rodents partially define their realized niches. Identifying items in stomachs of introduced rodents helps determine rodents’ trophic positions and species most at risk of consumption. In the Hawaiian Islands, which lacked rodents prior to human arrival, three rodents (Rattus rattus or black rat, R. exulans or Pacific rat, Mus musculus or house mouse) commonly coexist in native habitats where they consume a wide range of plants and animals. These three rodent species were trapped in montane forest for 2.5 years; their stomach contents were analyzed to determine short-term diets (n = 12–95 indiv. per species), and isotopic fractions of δ15N and δ13C in their bone collagen were analyzed to further estimate their trophic positions (n = 11–20 indiv. per species). For all three species,>75 % of individuals had plants and >90 % had arthropods in their stomachs, and significant differences in mean relative abundances were found for food items in stomachs among all three rodents. Rodents may be dispersing some native and non-native seeds, including the highly invasive Clidemia hirta. Most identifiable arthropods in rodent stomachs were non-native, and no stomachs contained birds, snails, or lizards. The δ15N and δ13C signatures were consistent with trophic feeding differences revealed from stomach contents. Dietary niche differentiation by coexisting rodent species is evident in this forest, with Pacific rats being intermediate between the mostly carnivorous house mouse and the mostly herbivorous black rat; such findings can help forecast rodent impacts and direct management efforts in ecosystems where these invasive animals coexist.

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