It is a tiny rodent. It has a special tactic to defend itself against predators. It cuts tall grasses so it can watch the skies for flying enemies. A research review: it is the rodent that cuts grasses for protection.
Brandt’s voles (Lasiopodomys brandtii) live in grasslands in Inner Mongolia, China. They are hunted by birds called shrikes.
The study was done by the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It found that voles cut tall grass when shrikes are nearby. They don’t eat or use the grass, they cut it to keep themselves safe. It is an example of “ecosystem engineering”.
“It happens when the shrikes were present. The mice drastically reduce the volume of grass,” explains Dirk Sanders, PhD.
“This led to fewer visits by the shrikes. recognize the mowed grassy areas as poor hunting grounds. Such an activity is costly to the voles in terms of energy. Cutting grass should significantly improve their chances of survival.”
Adapting in the field
The researchers also tested the impact of keeping birds away by placing nets in certain areas. Without shrikes overhead, the voles stopped cutting grass.
“We underestimated the ability of wild animals to react to changes in their environment,” said Dr. Sanders. “They changed their behavior in response to predator removal.”
“Species show remarkable adaptations. Losing just one in a food web causes unexpected changes in an entire habitat.”
Dr. Zhiwei Zhong, Northeast Normal University, added, “The finding would have some implications for rodent management in grasslands. Maintaining or planting these grasses may help attract shrikes. And then reduce the population density of voles.” The rodent that mows grasses for protection surely has more strategies up its sleeve.