Australian Mammalogy Australian Mammalogy Society
Journal of the Australian Mammal Society
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Irruption and collapse of a population of pale field-rat (Rattus tunneyi) at Heirisson Prong, Shark Bay, Western Australia

Jeff Short A B C D , Sally O’Neill B and Jacqueline D. Richards A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.

B Faculty of Sustainability, Environmental and Life Science, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.

C Present address: Wildlife Research and Management Pty Ltd, PO Box 1360, Kalamunda, WA 6926, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: jeff@wildliferesearchmanagement.com.au

Australian Mammalogy - https://doi.org/10.1071/AM16028
Submitted: 20 June 2016  Accepted: 14 March 2017   Published online: 15 June 2017

Abstract

Pale field-rats have long disappeared from Australia’s arid and semiarid zones, other than for some Pilbara islands and a single mainland population of indeterminate status and extent identified at Shark Bay in 1968. Hence, it was noteworthy when a field-rat was first caught at Heirisson Prong in 1994, 40 km north-east of the previous location at Shark Bay. Further individuals were caught regularly from late 1995. The population peaked in July–October 2000 (with captures of ~190 individuals per month) and had collapsed by July 2001 (with only the occasional animal caught thereafter). None were caught beyond 2006, despite regular trapping to 2013. This irruption and collapse was beyond the established range of the species and was in atypical habitat. Widespread trapping after the collapse suggested that the population inhabited few localised ‘source’ areas and a broad area of ‘sink’ habitat, with the latter occupied only after extraordinarily high rainfall events leading to higher grass cover. A return to dry years and the consequent loss of cover (aided by an abundant rabbit population) and strong growth in predator numbers (feral cats and small birds of prey) in response to the high number of field-rats appears to have facilitated the collapse.

Additional keywords: eruption, Mus, native rodent, outbreak, Pseudomys, refuge, source-sink, temporal synchrony.


References

Aplin, K. P., Braithwaite, R. W., and Baverstock, P. R. (2008). Pale field-rat Rattus tunneyi (Thomas, 1904). In ‘The Mammals of Australia’. (Eds S. Van Dyck and R. Strahan.) pp. 698–699. (Reed New Holland: Australia.)

Baverstock, P. R. (1976). Water balance and kidney function in four species of Rattus from ecologically diverse environments. Australian Journal of Zoology 24, 7–17.
Water balance and kidney function in four species of Rattus from ecologically diverse environments.CrossRef |

Baynes, A. (1990). The mammals of Shark Bay, Western Australia. In ‘Research in Shark Bay. Report of the France-Australe Bicentenary Expedition Committee’. (Eds P. F. Berry, S. D. Bradshaw and B. R. Wilson.) pp. 313–325. (Western Australian Museum: Perth.)

Bradley, A. J., Kemper, C. M., Kitchener, D. J., Humphreys, W. F., and How, R. A. (1987). Small mammals of the Mitchell Plateau area, Kimberley, Western Australia. Australian Wildlife Research 14, 397–413.
Small mammals of the Mitchell Plateau area, Kimberley, Western Australia.CrossRef |

Braithwaite, R. W., and Griffiths, A. D. (1996). The paradox of Rattus tunneyi: endangerment of a native pest. Wildlife Research 23, 1–21.
The paradox of Rattus tunneyi: endangerment of a native pest.CrossRef |

Braithwaite, R. W., and Muller, W. (1997). Rainfall, groundwater and refuges: predicting extinctions of Australian tropical mammal species. Australian Journal of Ecology 22, 57–67.
Rainfall, groundwater and refuges: predicting extinctions of Australian tropical mammal species.CrossRef |

Burbidge, A. A., and McKenzie, N. L. (1989). Patterns in the modern decline of Western Australia’s vertebrate fauna: causes and conservation implications. Biological Conservation 50, 143–198.
Patterns in the modern decline of Western Australia’s vertebrate fauna: causes and conservation implications.CrossRef |

Carstairs, J. L. (1974). The distribution of Rattus villosissimus (Waite) during plague and non-plague years. Australian Wildlife Research 1, 95–106.
The distribution of Rattus villosissimus (Waite) during plague and non-plague years.CrossRef |

Carstairs, J. L. (1976). Population dynamics and movements of Rattus villosissimus (Waite) during the 1966–69 plague at Brunette Downs, N.T. Australian Wildlife Research 3, 1–9.
Population dynamics and movements of Rattus villosissimus (Waite) during the 1966–69 plague at Brunette Downs, N.T.CrossRef |

Cole, J. R., and Woinarski, J. C. Z. (2000). Rodents of the arid Northern Territory: conservation status and distribution. Wildlife Research 27, 437–449.
Rodents of the arid Northern Territory: conservation status and distribution.CrossRef |

Dickman, C. R., Mahon, P. S., Masters, P., and Gibson, D. F. (1999). Long-term dynamics of rodent populations in arid Australia: the influence of rainfall. Wildlife Research 26, 389–403.
Long-term dynamics of rodent populations in arid Australia: the influence of rainfall.CrossRef |

Finlayson, H. H. (1935). ‘The Red Centre.’ (Angus and Robertson: Sydney.)

Finlayson, H. H. (1939). On mammals of the Lake Eyre Basin. Pt. V. General remarks on the increase of murids and their population movements in the Lake Eyre Basin during the years 1930–1936. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 63, 348–353.

Frank, A. S. K., Johnson, C. N., Fisher, A., Lawes, M. J., Woinarski, J. C. Z., Tuft, K., Radford, I. J., Gordon, I. J., Collis, M., and Legge, S. (2014). Experimental evidence that feral cats cause local extirpation of small mammals in Australia’s tropical savannas. Journal of Applied Ecology 51, 1486–1493.
Experimental evidence that feral cats cause local extirpation of small mammals in Australia’s tropical savannas.CrossRef |

Greenville, A. C., Wardle, G. A., and Dickman, C. R. (2013). Extreme rainfall events predict irruptions of rat plagues in central Australia. Austral Ecology 38, 754–764.
Extreme rainfall events predict irruptions of rat plagues in central Australia.CrossRef |

King, D. R., Wheeler, S. H., and Schmidt, G. L. (1983). Population fluctuations and reproduction of rabbits in a pastoral area on the coast north of Carnarvon, W.A. Australian Wildlife Research 10, 97–104.
Population fluctuations and reproduction of rabbits in a pastoral area on the coast north of Carnarvon, W.A.CrossRef |

Kitchener, D. J., and Vicker, E. (1981). ‘Catalogue of Modern Mammals in the Western Australian Museum 1895–1981.’ (Western Australian Museum: Perth.)

Korpimäki, E., Brown, P. R., Jacob, J., and Pech, R. P. (2004). The puzzles of population cycles and outbreaks of small mammals solved? Bioscience 54, 1071–1079.
The puzzles of population cycles and outbreaks of small mammals solved?CrossRef |

Krebs, C. J., and Singleton, G. R. (1993). Indices of condition for small mammals. Australian Journal of Zoology 41, 317–323.
Indices of condition for small mammals.CrossRef |

Lange, R. T., and Graham, C. R. (1983). Rabbits and the failure of regeneration in the Australian arid zone Acacia. Australian Journal of Ecology 8, 377–381.
Rabbits and the failure of regeneration in the Australian arid zone Acacia.CrossRef |

McCluskey, P. (2008). Shark Bay World Heritage Property strategic plan 2008 – 2020. Department of Environment and Conservation: Kensington, WA.

McKenzie, N. L., Hall, N. J., and Muir, W. P. (2000). Non-volant mammals of the southern Carnarvon Basin, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 61, 479–510.
Non-volant mammals of the southern Carnarvon Basin, Western Australia.CrossRef |

Morris, K. (2000). The status and conservation of native rodents in Western Australia. Wildlife Research 27, 405–419.
The status and conservation of native rodents in Western Australia.CrossRef |

Newsome, A. E., and Corbett, L. K. (1975). Outbreaks of rodents in semi-arid and arid Australia: causes, preventions, and evolutionary considerations. In ‘Rodents in Desert Environments’. (Eds I. Prakash and P. K. Gosh.) pp. 117–153. (Dr W. Junk: The Hague, The Netherlands.)

Palmer, R., and Morris, K. D. (2014). A survey for black rats (Rattus rattus) in the Shark Bay communities of Denham, Monkey Mia and Useless Loop. Report to Department of Parks and Wildlife, Wanneroo. Available at: https://library.dpaw.wa.gov.au/static/FullTextFiles/071967.pdf (accessed 10 April 2017).

Parker, S. A. (1973). An annotated checklist of the native land mammals of the Northern Territory. Records of the South Australian Museum 16, 1–57.

Pavey, C., Eldridge, S. R., and Heywood, M. (2008). Population dynamics and prey selection of native and introduced predators during a rodent outbreak in arid Australia. Journal of Mammalogy 89, 674–683.
Population dynamics and prey selection of native and introduced predators during a rodent outbreak in arid Australia.CrossRef |

Payne, A. L., Curry, P. J., and Spencer, G. F. (1987). An inventory and condition survey of rangelands in the Carnarvon Basin, Western Australia. Western Australian Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin No. 73.

Predavec, M. (1994). Population dynamics and environmental changes during natural irruptions of Australian desert rodents. Wildlife Research 21, 569–582.
Population dynamics and environmental changes during natural irruptions of Australian desert rodents.CrossRef |

Predavec, M., and Dickman, C. R. (1994). Population dynamics and habitat use of the long-haired rat (Rattus villosissimus) in south-western Queensland. Wildlife Research 21, 1–10.
Population dynamics and habitat use of the long-haired rat (Rattus villosissimus) in south-western Queensland.CrossRef |

Pulliam, H. R. (1988). Sources, sinks, and population regulation. American Naturalist 132, 652–661.
Sources, sinks, and population regulation.CrossRef |

Richards, J. D., and Short, J. (2003). Reintroduction and establishment of the western barred bandicoot Perameles bougainville (Marsupialia: Peramelidae) at Shark Bay, Western Australia. Biological Conservation 109, 181–195.
Reintroduction and establishment of the western barred bandicoot Perameles bougainville (Marsupialia: Peramelidae) at Shark Bay, Western Australia.CrossRef |

Risbey, D. A., Calver, M. C., Short, J., Bradley, J. S., and Wright, I. W. (2000). The impact of cats and foxes on the small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia. II. A field experiment. Wildlife Research 27, 223–235.
The impact of cats and foxes on the small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia. II. A field experiment.CrossRef |

Robinson, A. C., Kemper, C. M., Medlin, G. C., and Watts, C. H. S. (2000). The rodents of South Australia. Wildlife Research 27, 379–404.
The rodents of South Australia.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3cXksF2rs7s%3D&md5=0fbc302523969f12b587c40753d194d5CAS |

Robley, A. J., Short, J., and Bradley, J. S. (2001). Dietary overlap between the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur) and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in semi-arid coastal Western Australia. Wildlife Research 28, 341–349.
Dietary overlap between the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur) and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in semi-arid coastal Western Australia.CrossRef |

Robley, A., Short, J., and Bradley, J. S. (2002). Do European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) influence the population ecology of the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur)? Wildlife Research 29, 423–429.
Do European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) influence the population ecology of the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur)?CrossRef |

Sanders, A., and Harold, G. (1990). Search for the Shark Bay Mouse Pseudomys praeconis at Shark Bay on the Western Australian Mainland. World Wildlife Fund and Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.

Short, J. (2016). Predation by feral cats key to the failure of a long-term reintroduction of the western barred bandicoot Perameles bougainville. Wildlife Research 43, 38–50.
Predation by feral cats key to the failure of a long-term reintroduction of the western barred bandicoot Perameles bougainville.CrossRef |

Short, J., and Turner, B. (2000). Reintroduction of the burrowing bettong Bettongia lesueur (Marsupialia: Potoroidae) to mainland Australia. Biological Conservation 96, 185–196.
Reintroduction of the burrowing bettong Bettongia lesueur (Marsupialia: Potoroidae) to mainland Australia.CrossRef |

Short, J., and Turner, B. (2005). Control of feral cats for nature conservation. IV. Population dynamics and morphological attributes of feral cats at Shark Bay, Western Australia. Wildlife Research 32, 489–501.
Control of feral cats for nature conservation. IV. Population dynamics and morphological attributes of feral cats at Shark Bay, Western Australia.CrossRef |

Short, J., Turner, B., Parker, S., and Twiss, J. (1994). Reintroduction of endangered mammals to mainland Shark Bay: a progress report. In ‘Reintroduction Biology of Australian and New Zealand Fauna’. (Ed. M. Serena.). pp. 183–188. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Short, J., Turner, B., Risbey, D. A., and Carnamah, R. (1997). Control of feral cats for nature conservation. II. Population reduction by poisoning. Wildlife Research 24, 703–714.
Control of feral cats for nature conservation. II. Population reduction by poisoning.CrossRef |

Taylor, J. M., and Horner, B. E. (1973). Reproductive characteristics of wild native Australian Rattus (Rodentia: Muridae). Australian Journal of Zoology 21, 437–475.
Reproductive characteristics of wild native Australian Rattus (Rodentia: Muridae).CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DyaE2M%2FjvFCntg%3D%3D&md5=1da599cafab569885e0f649b81ddd787CAS |

Twigg, L. E., Lowe, T., Martin, G. R., and Gray, G. S. (1999). A review of the anticoagulant pesticide pindone. Report to Agriculture Western Australia Vertebrate Pest Services, Perth. Available at: http://researchlibrary.agric.wa.gov.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=books (accessed 10 April 2017).

Twigg, L. E., Martin, G. R., Eastman, A., King, D. R., and Kirkpatrick, W. E. (2003). Sensitivity of some Australian animals to sodium fluoroacetate (1080): additional species and populations, and some ecological considerations. Australian Journal of Zoology 51, 515–531.
Sensitivity of some Australian animals to sodium fluoroacetate (1080): additional species and populations, and some ecological considerations.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD2cXnslyk&md5=e421b7baa18ff1c3d530b7d66144d4b8CAS |

Watts, C. H. S. (1977). The foods eaten by some Australian rodents (Muridae). Australian Wildlife Research 4, 151–157.
The foods eaten by some Australian rodents (Muridae).CrossRef |

Watts, C. H. S., and Aslin, H. J. (1974). Notes on the small mammals of north-eastern South Australia and south-western Queensland. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 98, 61–69.

Watts, C. H. S., and Aslin, H. J. (1981). ‘The Rodents of Australia.’ (Angus & Robertson Publishers: Australia.)

Woinarski, J. C. Z., Burbidge, A. A., and Harrison, P. L. (2014). ‘The Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.)



Export Citation