Stomach content analysis of the invasive small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) from Puerto Rico
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Since their introduction to Puerto Rico as a form of biological pest control in the late 1800’s, the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) has been identified as a reservoir for several zoonotic diseases and has been suggested as a factor affecting native Puerto Rican fauna. Mongoose are considered generalist predators that readily switch prey consumption depending on prey availability. There are seven ecological zones in Puerto Rico that vary in rainfall, elevation, and vegetations thus creating heterogeneous environments that likely differ in prey abundance, which presumably results in diverging prey use by mongooses in distinct ecological zones. Prior dietary analyses conducted on introduced mongooses in Puerto Rico have focused on individual ecological zones. For the present study, I contrasted mongoose diets from the subtropical moist forest zone and subtropical dry forest zones. Stomach contents were separated and analyzed to determine aggregate percent composition of prey remains for 5 categories (invertebrate, reptile, mammal, vegetation, and other). Of 51 mongoose stomachs analyzed (Dry, n=22, Moist, n=29), there were differences in category compositions across all mongooses but there were no differences in compositions of prey remains between ecological sites. Invertebrates comprised the largest category of prey (Dry=13.7%, Wet=9.4%) used by mongooses at both ecological zones. Despite their large ecological differences, proximity of these zones to each other likely allowed prey distributions to overlap across both zones. Future studies on prey abundance per ecological zone would provide insights into whether mongooses are selecting or using prey based on their availability.