Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Circadian activity of the swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus) in South Central Victoria.

Abstract

The swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus) is one of the few Australian terrestrial mammals that is commonly active between dawn and dusk. The species has typically been considered cathemeral (active throughout the diel cycle) with variation in circadian activity dependant on proximate factors such as the risk of predation or competition with closely related taxa. Data from camera trapping over 8 years and across 79 sites in South Central Victoria confirmed the species was effectively diurnal throughout the region and that night activity was relatively uncommon. Activity generally tracked daily temperature cycles; lowest in the period prior to dawn and highest in the middle of the afternoon and is consistent with an energy conservation strategy linked to the species' unusual diet. Other rodent taxa, including two widespread exotic species were strictly nocturnal yet there was little evidence to suggest that R. lutreolus activity was influenced by the presence or absence of other murids or the risk of predation.