Systematic prey preference by introduced mice exhausts the ecosystem on Antipodes Island

James C. Russell*, Joanne E. Peace, Melissa J. Houghton, Sarah J. Bury, Thomas W. Bodey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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House mice (Mus musculus) are a widespread invasive species on islands. Where they are the sole introduced mammal they can have particularly strong negative impacts on recipient ecosystems. House mice impacts have been documented on almost every component of the terrestrial ecosystem on Southern Ocean islands, including plants, invertebrates, birds and ecosystem function. We undertook a comprehensive study to determine the impacts of house mice on Antipodes Island, New Zealand. This study was done prior to mouse eradication to inform monitoring and restoration. We used invertebrate pitfall trapping on the main Antipodes Island and neighbouring mouse-free offshore islands together with mouse stomach contents and stable isotope analyses of mouse livers to examine dietary preferences. We identified directly impacted and consumed invertebrate Orders relative to their abundance and provided a comprehensive picture of resource flow and overlap in the invaded terrestrial ecosystem. The remote terrestrial ecosystem of Antipodes Island was tightly circumscribed with strong resource overlap. Mouse diet varied seasonally with resource availability, dominated by invertebrates and land birds in summer, and plants and seabirds in winter. Invertebrates that were preferentially preyed upon were Amphipoda, Lepidoptera and some species of Coleoptera. These patterns suggest the ecosystem is annually driven by a seasonal bottom-up resource pulse over summer, where mice are a selective predator, differentially preying on invertebrates relative to invertebrate abundance. Mice appear to be exhausting preferred prey as they systematically consume their way through the terrestrial ecosystem. Land bird diet also varied seasonally and some of these birds likely competed with mice for invertebrate prey. Eradication of mice from Antipodes Island should reduce the predation on invertebrates and reduce the effects of competition and predation on land birds. This should have flow-on effects to the abundance of invertebrates and endemic land bird sub-species of pipit and snipe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1278
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Invasions
Early online date14 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

For assistance collecting samples in the field the authors thank David Thompson, Erica Sommer, David Boyle and Mark Fraser in summer 2011, Helen Nathan, Terry Greene and Graeme Elliott in winter 2013, Fin Cox in autumn 2016 and Jose Luis Herrera in winter 2016. Thanks to the Department of Conservation, Murihiku, for logistical support, and Hank Haazen and crew of the Tiama for transport. Funding was provided for the summer 2011 expedition by NIWA and winter 2013 expedition by the National Geographic Society (Grant No. 9322-13). Thanks to Stephen Thorpe, Robert Hoare, and John Marris for taxonomic identification of invertebrate samples. Thanks to Surrya Khanam for laboratory sorting, Julie Brown and Anna Kilimnik for stable isotope laboratory analyses and Wendy Nelson for macroalgae identification. JCR is currently funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (Grant No. RDF-UOA1404). TWB is currently funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship (Grant No. 747120). Thanks to Katherine Russell and two anonymous reviewers for feedback on the manuscript. This research was conducted under DOC entry (SO-29716-LND 1011/35) and research (SO-29140-FAU 1011/20) permits, and University of Auckland Animal Ethics Committee approval (R845).


  • Diet
  • House mouse
  • Invertebrates
  • Mus musculus
  • Southern Ocean
  • Stable isotopes
  • Stomach content
  • DIET


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