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

Greater bilby burrows: important structures for a range of species in an arid environment

Lucas Hofstede A B and Martin A. Dziminski A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia, Woodvale Wildlife Research Centre, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, WA 6983, Australia.

B Helicon Opleidingen Institute, Energieweg 19, 6541 CW Nijmegen, Netherlands.

C Corresponding author. Email: martin.dziminski@dpaw.wa.gov.au

Australian Mammalogy 39(2) 227-237 https://doi.org/10.1071/AM16032
Submitted: 12 July 2016  Accepted: 8 January 2017   Published: 21 February 2017

Abstract

Greater bilbies (Macrotis lagotis) have been described as ecosystem engineers and their burrows are significant structures across an often featureless and harsh arid landscape. Remote cameras were deployed at bilby burrows to determine whether bilby burrows were important structures for other species. Cameras detected two mammal species, brush-tailed mulgara (Dasycercus blythi) and spinifex hopping mice (Notomys alexis), permanently occupying bilby burrows, and a further two species, short-beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus acanthion) and sand goannas (Varanus gouldii), regularly using bilby burrows for shelter. An additional suite of 16 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species were detected interacting with bilby burrows. There was no difference in the number of species using disused or occupied bilby burrows, indicating that even disused bilby burrows are important structures for other species. We show that bilby burrows are used by a range of species and are analogous to the traditional, mostly North American, and commonly provided text book examples of the gopher tortoise and kangaroo rat. The disappearance of bilbies across at least 80% of their former range and thus the disappearance of their burrows as important structural resources in a harsh, arid environment may have had important consequences for a range of species.

Additional keywords: burrowing mammal, burrowing owl, commensalism, ecosystem engineer, Gopherus, Lorna Glen, Matuwa, reintroduction.


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