Urban rats have less variable, higher protein diets
journal contributionposted on 12.08.2020, 10:42 by E Guiry, M Buckley
Over the past 1000 years, rats (Rattus spp.) have become one of the most successful and prolific pests in human society. Despite their cosmopolitan distribution across six continents and ubiquity throughout the world's cities, rat urban ecology remains poorly understood. We investigate the role of human foods in brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) diets in urban and rural areas over a 100 year period (ca AD 1790-1890) in Toronto, Canada using stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analyses of archaeological remains. We found that rat diets from urban sites were of higher quality and were more homogeneous and stable over time. By contrast, in rural areas, they show a wide range of dietary niche specializations that directly overlap, and probably competed, with native omnivorous and herbivorous species. These results demonstrate a link between rodent diets and human population density, providing, to our knowledge, the first long-term dietary perspective on the relative value of different types of human settlements as rodent habitat. This study highlights the potential of using the historical and archaeological record to provide a retrospective on the urban ecology of commensal and synanthropic animals that could be useful for improving animal management and conservation strategies in urban areas.
SSHRC Postdoctoral and Banting Postdoctoral programs and a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (E.G.) and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (M.B.) (UF120473).
CitationGuiry E, Buckley M. 2018 Urban rats have less variable, higher protein diets. Proc. R. Soc. B 285: 20181441. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.1441
VersionVoR (Version of Record)
Published inProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
PublisherThe Royal Society
Science & TechnologyLife Sciences & BiomedicineBiologyEcologyEvolutionary BiologyLife Sciences & Biomedicine - Other TopicsEnvironmental Sciences & Ecologyurban ecologyarchaeologycommensalismRattus norvegicusstable isotopeshistorical ecologySTABLE-ISOTOPE ANALYSISRATTUS-RATTUSECOLOGYREMAINSARCHAEOLOGYNORVEGICUSIMPACTSPEOPLERATIOSWHEAT