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Relative age determination of Rattus tiomanicus using allometric measurements

Verwilghen A., Rabillard M.A., Chaval Y., Rieffel D., Sinaga M.H., Naim M., Caliman J.P., Giraudoux P., Raoul F.. 2015. Mammalia, 79 (1) : p. 81-90.

DOI: 10.1515/mammalia-2013-0113

For sustainable oil palm production, barn owl (Tyto alba) predation should be enhanced and monitored to better understand its impact on rodent population dynamics, notably for selective predation based on age or size. Our aim was to assess the best combination of osteometric variables that predict eye lens weight and thus the relative age of an individual Rattus tiomanicus based on pellet remains. We captured 161 individuals in an oil palm plantation in Indonesia and measured 15 osteometric variables for the jaw, skull, and femur. We investigated the variables' correlations with eye lens weight and estimated the measurement errors. In addition, 120 pellets were collected to assess the frequency of different types of bones. Predictive modelling was then used. We suggest that the model using the femur length would be more appropriate, even if it is slightly less precise than the models that consider the skull and jaw variables. The femur was well represented in the pellet sample, its length highly correlated with the eye lens weight, with a low measurement error. Our study demonstrates the utility of femur length for age prediction in prey from macroremains in oil palm plantations, wherein most pellets are headless and R. tiomanicus is the dominant prey.

Mots-clés : elaeis guineensis; plantation; production; rapace; rat; Âge; mensuration corporelle; anatomie animale; modèle de simulation; dynamique des populations; prédation; Écologie animale; durabilité; rattus; indonésie; tyto alba

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