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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 642412, 7 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/642412
Research Article

Do Invasive Fire Ants Affect Habitat Selection within a Small Mammal Community?

1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, MS-170, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, USA
2Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, 250 Townsend Hall, Newark, DE 19716, USA
3Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2258, USA

Received 26 June 2010; Accepted 1 December 2010

Academic Editor: Andrew Sih

Copyright © 2010 Wendee N. Holtcamp et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Animals must balance foraging with the need to avoid predators and risky habitats that decrease their fitness, and at the same time they must cope with competitors vying for habitat and resources. We examined how habitat selection and population density of four native small mammals were altered by the presence of red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). When population size was low, hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) and pigmy mice (Baiomys taylori) as well as white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) used the “safe”, low fire ant habitat, as predicted by theories of density-dependent habitat selection. However, as fire ant population sizes expanded, cotton rats appeared to displace pigmy mice into the fire ant-dense grassland drainage while white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) displaced all the other small mammals from low fire ant forest/brushland habitat.