Morphometric identification of small mammal footprints from ink tracking tunnels in the Brazilian Cerrado

Identificação morfométrica de pequenos mamíferos usando tubos de pegadas no Cerrado

Alexandre R. T. Palma Rodrigo Gurgel-Gonçalves About the authors

An alternative method for identifying and inventorying rodents and marsupials inhabiting forests and grasslands of Brazilian Cerrado is presented and discussed. Ink tracking tunnels were designed according to the size of target species and used to build a reference collection of small mammal footprints composed of 1408 footprints belonging to 251 individuals from 30 species (21 rodents and nine marsupials). Sherman traps and ink tracking tunnels were used to conduct inventories in gallery forests. Footprints obtained in ink tracking tunnels were digitalized and compared with those in reference collection using Discriminant Analysis (DFA). DFA allowed good footprint differentiation, even among congeneric species. In DFA analysis, the first two axis were related to size and arboreality. The efficiency of ink tracking tunnels was higher (track-success = 31%) than conventional trapping (trap-success = 14%) in inventories. Ink tracking tunnels gave a good description of the small mammal community of gallery forest by detecting rodents and marsupials of different habits, including trap-shy species. This paper also discusses advantages and limitations of ink tracking tunnels use in inventories and ecological studies, and concludes that this technique can be efficient in long-term studies and in rapid inventories as a complementary technique for trapping.

Discriminant analysis; marsupials; rodents; shape; size; tracks

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