Publication Date

Fall 2017

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Michael Stokes (Director), Dr. Carl Dick and Dr. Scott Grubbs

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


There is currently a decline in large, old trees within many ecosystems where they play important ecological and economic roles. One ecosystem suffering from this decline is the bushveld savanna of South Africa. One particularly important species in decline is the ecologically, economically, and culturally significant marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra). This species’ decline is characterized by a steep drop in recruitment of seedlings into the population. Rodents are known to influence plant communities across many ecosystems through herbivory of adult plants as well as predation of seeds and seedlings. This research provides a record of rodent species present in the bushveld savanna ecosystem of Balule Nature Reserve where a decline in marula recruitment is taking place. Further, it offers a summary of morphological statistics and natural history traits for these rodents. Morphological statistics can be used for species identification. Reproductive status of individuals can inform researchers about reproductive phenology and how it may be affected by environmental conditions. Finally, trapping for this study took place during an historic regional drought. Trapping success was used to develop a limited window into how reduced precipitation affects rodent abundances. Morphological traits measured coincide with those available in the literature. Reproductive activity for males and females of one species, Namaqua rock mouse (Micaelamys namaquensis ), did not overlap completely, with females not being reproductively active while males were. Individuals captured and identified as chestnut climbing mice (Dendromus mystacalis) had statistically significantly longer tails and hind feet, and were heavier than reported in reference works.


Behavior and Ethology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology