Coexistence of temporally partitioned spiny mice: Roles of habitat structure and foraging behavior

M. Jones*, Y. Mandelik, T. Dayan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Two coexisting species of spiny mice in rocky deserts in Israel temporally partition activity in opposite parts of the diel cycle. Acomys cahirinus is nocturnal and A. russatus is diurnal, although it becomes nocturnal if its congener is experimentally removed, suggesting that the temporal partitioning is driven by interspecific competition. Such extreme temporal partitioning within the diel cycle has not previously been recorded elsewhere among mammals. Using artificial food patches, we studied microhabitat use and foraging efficiencies under seasonally variable predator regimes and physiological pressures to assess the roles that habitat structure and foraging behavior might play in coexistence. The two species showed trade-offs in foraging efficiency leading to different strategies of microhabitat use that may help promote coexistence. A. cahirinus is a "cream skimmer," a relatively inefficient forager that gives up at relatively high giving-up densities, and a habitat generalist; whereas A. russatus is a habitat specialist, perhaps compensating for this restricted niche by foraging very efficiently to low giving-up densities. Seasonal shifts in foraging microhabitat suggest that the response to predation risk from snakes in summer overrides and opposes the effects of physiological costs and risk from owls and diurnal raptors, leading to increased predatory risk and foraging microhabitat overlap in summer. Temporal partitioning of the food resource may compensate for decreased partitioning of the habitat resource in summer. Provision of cover was more important than escape distance in determining habitat and microhabitat use. Boulder fields in rocky deserts provide a physical structure that is more complex and provides more continuous cover than is available in open deserts, where most research on community structure of desert rodents has been carried out. We propose that this physical structure of rocky deserts, in conjunction with the desert adaptations of A. russatus, may enable the extreme temporal partitioning to opposite parts of the diel cycle and, therefore, contributes to coexistence in this community.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2164-2176
Number of pages13
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Acomys
  • Coexistence
  • Foraging
  • Giving-up densities
  • Habitat structure
  • Microhabitat partitioning
  • Predation risk
  • Predator enhancement
  • Rocky deserts
  • Rodent communities
  • Spiny mice
  • Temporal partitioning


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