Population abundance, natural history, and habitat use by the arboreal marsupial Dromiciops gliroides in rural Chiloé Island, Chile

Juan L. Celis-Diez, Jennifer Hetz, Paula A. Marín-Vial, Gonzalo Fuster, Pablo Necochea, Rodrigo A. Vásquez, Fabián M. Jaksic, Juan J. Armesto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

Populations of the endemic and threatened marsupial Dromiciops gliroides were studied in logged and unlogged forest patches and shrublands in a rural area of northern Chiloé Island (42°S), Chile. We expected to find differences in abundance, with higher densities in unlogged, old-growth remnant forests. Individuals were livetrapped over 4 years (2005 - 2009) at the peak of their breeding (November) and nonbreeding (February) seasons. We estimated population densities using capture - mark - recapture procedures. Home range, diet (through fecal content), and health status (ectoparasite loads) were assessed for captured individuals. We estimated the length of the breeding season by the levels of reproductive hormones, whereas winter torpor was documented using artificial nest boxes. Population densities varied seasonally in accordance with breeding, with higher densities recorded during summer, and were similar in old-growth and in logged forests, but were considerable higher in forests than in shrublands. D. gliroides reproduced well in both unlogged and logged forests. Social torpor was documented for the 1st time and was fairly frequent (64%), especially among juveniles. Home ranges were 2 times larger for males than for females. We confirmed the omnivorous diet of D. gliroides, with predominant consumption of arthropods, and a higher consumption of fleshy fruits during summer. Habitat and animal age had significant effects on ectoparasite prevalence, with higher incidences among juveniles in logged forests. We conclude that D. gliroides is not a rare species in remnant forests in the rural landscape of Chiloé Island. This result is crucial for the assessment of its conservation status and offers clues for designing better conservation strategies for this living fossil in anthropogenic landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-148
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Volume93
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • capture-recapture
  • communal nesting
  • countryside
  • old-growth forest
  • population density
  • selectively logged forest
  • temperate rain forest

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