SOCIAL MONOGAMY AND BIPARENTAL CARE OF THE NEOTROPICAL SOUTHERN BAMBOO RAT (KANNABATEOMYS AMBLYONYX)

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Abstract

We analyzed social patterns indicative of the mating system and parental care in a population of the southern bamboo rat (Kannabateomys amblyonyx). This arboreal rodent feeds exclusively on bamboo stems and leaves. We conducted fieldwork from August 2003 to October 2004 in southern Brazil (30°20′-30°27′S, 50°50′-51°05′W), in patches of introduced Chinese bamboo (Bambusa tuldoides). We captured 18 individuals, 7 of which were adults that received radiotransmitters and were followed from 1 to 12 months. Another 5 animals (adults or subadults) received colored collars. We observed paternal care, delayed juvenile dispersal, and reduced degree of sexual dimorphism, all of which are traits typical of social monogamy. Mated males showed a direct parental behavioral repertoire similar to that of females (with the obvious exception of nursing), including grooming, huddling, and food provisioning. Potential monogamy in this species seems to be a flexible strategy linked to low density of bamboo patches. Females were confined to widely spaced, small home ranges, decreasing the possibility of male defense of and access to > 1 female. The arboreal habits of the species possibly increase the risk of inexperienced young falling from trees or else being depredated when moving exposed through branches. This risk is probably reduced by the extensive biparental care observed, including the providing of low-energy plant food to young in the nest.

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