• Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

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How a rodent’s fear of cats shapes rainforests in Panama

As rodents called agoutis avoid areas where ocelots prowl, they spread fewer of the palm seeds they eat, which could lead to a cascade of changes in biodiversity throughout Panama’s forests

Life 8 March 2022

New Scientist Default Image

An agouti gnawing on a palm seed

Steven Paton

A game of cat and mouse is playing out in Panama’s rainforests, with large rodents called agoutis using their keen sense of smell to avoid ocelots that hunt them. The fear the rodents have for these predators and the ways it directs their behaviour have ripple effects that could alter the diversity of plants around them.

Most research on this “ecology of fear” has been centred on temperate ecosystems, says Dumas Gálvez at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City. …