Effect of Habitat Fragmentation on Food Habits and Some Aspects of Reproduction among Praomys delectorum Sub-populations in the Taita and Kyulu Hills, Kenya

Due to their short life histories, small mammals are useful indicators of environmental health. Despite

this, little or no investigation on the effects of habitat modification on small mammals’diet in Kenya has

been done. Response of the forest-dependant Praomys delectorum to anthropogenic disturbance in

different forest patches of the Taita Hills suggests that it is an opportunistic omnivore as its population

increases with increase in vegetation intergiditation. This study investigated the effect of habitat

fragmentation on food habits and litter size of P. delectorum in three sub-populations of the Taita Hills

and the Kyulu Hills population. Food habits variation was assessed by comparing morphometry of the

gastrointestinal tract while foetuses and placental scars were used as litter size indicators and the

histology of testes and ovary based on routine histological techniques A significant difference

(F=2.883*, P= 0.043) in the relative length of large intestine was noted which suggested variation in

food quality. There was no significant difference in litter size among the different sub-populations.

Prominent nuclei of primary spermatocytes in the seminiferous tubules of both abdominal and scrotal

testes were indicative of spermatogenesis though germ cells organization was clearer in scrotal

testes. The ovary of female with plugged vagina lacked corpora lutea which were nonetheless

observed in the ovary of females with perforate vagina though developing Graafian follicles were

observed in both. Thus vaginal condition is a good indicator of reproductive status in this species.

Praomys delectorum display a digestive tract adaptation suggestive of an opportunistic feeder. This

may have been due to change in food habits which could be associated with transformation of natural

habitat into fragments.


Author (s) Details

Jemimah Ayuma Simbauni

Department of Zoological Sciences, Kenyatta University, P.O. Box 43844-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.


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