Monday, July 18, 2005
Those of us in the invasive species world have heard a lot about why species on islands are particularly vulnerable to new predators and pathogens. The mantra is that island species evolved in a very isolated environment and frequently do not have any natural defenses against non-native species. Now nature.com is reporting about a research project that demonstrates this harsh reality in progress. A husband and wife research team studying the tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) on Gough Island found that the main culprit behind the massive rise in albatross chick deaths is introduced house mice (Mus musculus). An accompanying video shows the apparently learned behavior of the mice, who gang up on defenseless chicks and doom them to a slow death. If you are at all squeamish or you are under 18, do not watch the video! The chicks do not seem to have any idea how to react to the attacks, and it is absolutely heart-wrenching to see how they take the abuse. I know I will be having nightmares tonight. :-(
Introduced house mice? It's terrible the things we've enabled some critters to do. Cat owners may brag their pets control rodents, but as I'm sure some of the readers know they kill the native rodents more easily.
Dr. Cole Hawkins conducted a study of two grassland parks in the East Bay Regional Park District in California--one with no cats and one where over 20 cats were being fed daily. The study found that there were almost twice as many birds in the park without cats as in the park with cats. California Thrasher and California Quail, two common ground-dwelling birds, were always seen in the park without cats but were never seen in the park with cats. In addition, over 85 percent of the native deer and harvest mice trapped were in the park without cats, whereas over 75 percent of the house mice (an exotic pest) trapped were in the park with cats.
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