Print version ISSN 1984-4670
LORETTO, Diogo and VIEIRA, Marcus Vinícius. Artificial nests as an alternative to studies of arboreal small mammal populations: a five-year study in the Atlantic Forest, Brazil. Zoologia (Curitiba, Impr.) [online]. 2011, vol.28, n.3, pp. 388-394. ISSN 1984-4670. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1984-46702011000300013.
Despite the great diversity of Brazilian Atlantic forest small mammals, natural history of most species is unknown due to their cryptic and nocturnal habits, but also due to the inadequacy of methods to capture some species, especially those of arboreal habits. A new technique, based on the use of artificial nests (AN) to record arboreal marsupials, is presented. Artificial nests were combined with traditional live traps to study the population ecology of four didelphid marsupial species. After 62 months of monitoring, 119 individuals were recorded 243 times (total success = 5.2%). Only 26 individuals (22%) were recorded by both AN and live trap methods, and two of the four species were never captured by live traps, only by AN. Live traps alone would have provided biased data of the structure of small mammal assemblages, creating artificial tendencies in population dynamics of many species. Detectability estimates based on mark-recapture data could correct bias resulting from the use only live traps, but these estimates require that at least some individuals of each age class or stage are captured. Only the combination of AN and live traps can produce more accurate data on population dynamics and assemblage structure. This study demonstrates that artificial nests represent a new method that should be combined with live traps in studies of small mammal assemblages and populations.
Keywords : Didelphidae; mark-recapture; live trapping; population dynamics; marsupials.