Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Nathan Sanders, Gary McCracken, James Fordyce, Benjamin Fitzpatrick, Frank VanManen
One cause of declines and extinctions of island species is carnivore introduction. Four carnivores, including the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), are on the IUCN’s list of 100 of the World's Worst Invasive Alien Species. My thesis summarizes global patterns of carnivore introductions and examines ecological, evolutionary, and management impacts of this mongoose. I study abundances of reptiles and amphibians on mongoose-infested and mongoose-free islands in the Adriatic Sea to determine if factors other than mongoose presence can account for abundance differences. For several reptiles and amphibians, the mongoose is implicated as causing differences. Additionally, I assess species abundance in the small mammal community and activity times of introduced ship rats (Rattus rattus) on the same islands. The mongoose is implicated in a shift in rat activity times, but it is difficult to separate mongoose impacts on small mammal abundance from rat impacts.
To manage introduced carnivores, we can exclude, control, or eradicate them. I review literature data on mongoose eradication and control campaigns. I compiled a list of all islands with known mongoose populations and focused on assessing successes, failures, and challenges. The mongoose has been eradicated only on six very small islands. Management at low levels by various techniques has been attempted on many islands, with variable success.
On almost all islands of introduction, the mongoose has no potential competitors of similar size. However, on three Adriatic islands where the mongoose was introduced, a similar-sized native carnivore, the stone marten (Martes foina), is present, while on one Adriatic island the small Indian mongoose is the sole carnivore. To see if character displacement occurs in the mongoose when the marten is present, and vice-versa, I examined size variation in the diameter of the upper canine tooth (the prey-killing organ) and skull length in these two species on these islands. Character displacement in both traits was evident for the mongoose but not the marten.
Lastly, I developed a simulation model to examine genetic consequences of serial introductions of the small Indian mongoose and found that the potential for population genetic data to determine introduction pathways and sequences is limited.
Barun, Arijana, "The small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) on Adriatic Islands: impact, evolution, and control. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2011.