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Laboratory Evaluation of Some Bait Bases to Formulate Palatable Bait for the Control of Short-Tailed Mole Rat, Nesokia indica.

Byline: Syed Muzaffar Ahmed, Amjad Pervez, Syeda Azra Tariq, Zia-ul-Hasan and Erum Khadijah

Abstract

The short-tailed mole rat (Nesokia indica) was tested to determine the preference towards various cereals viz. wheat, rice, maize, millet, peanut and sunflower seed. The cereals were studied in single-feed, two feed and multiple feed choice tests comprising of twenty-two various combinations. It was evident from no-choice and choice tests that the rat preferred the rice most followed by the wheat, millet, peanut, maize and sunflower seed. It was concluded from the study that rice has clear likeness of Nesokia indica over other cereals (35.47%) when offered as single or in combinations with wheat (26.22%) being a preferred and cost-effective bait base.

Key words: Nesokia indica, palatability, cereal.

INTRODUCTION

The short-tailed mole rat, Nesokia indica Gray, 1832 is largely a palaearctic rodent and is widely distributed in India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Northern Arabia, Chinese Turkistan and Southern Russian Turkestan (Walker, 1975). In Pakistan, it is a rodent pest of economic importance and inflicts extensive damage to wheat, rice and sugarcane crops (Greaves et al., 1975; Beg et al., 1981; Fulk et al., 1981). In Pakistan N. indica is extremely widespread throughout the cultivated fields where there is irrigation in Sindh and Punjab (Fulk et al., 1981) and in most of the broader valleys of Baluchistan (Roberts, 1997). In the non-crop land of Baluchistan, N. indica is largely herbivorous in diet (Ahmed et al., 2007). In the orchards of Baluchistan about 93% of the diet of the rat was due to plants and the remaining 7% was due to insects (Mian et al., 1987). Roberts (1997) also recorded its presence around Bannu, Kohat, Mardan and Peshawar and probably in the valley of Swat.

Walker (1964) gave its upper limit distribution at 1500 m elevation. In the Punjab and Sindh plains, N. indica was originally confined to the margins of rivers above flood level. With the introduction of irrigational canal systems, the cultivated parts turned into a suitable habitat and this species is now probably the most abundant mammal rodent pest in Pakistan followed by Bandicota bengalensis (Taber et al., 1967).

Several methods are being used in the world to minimize rodent losses but poison baiting is still considered as the main method to control rodent pests. Any rodent control program cannot be successful, if the poison bait is not well accepted by the rats. Different species of rats differ in their diet and preferences. A thorough knowledge of the preferred food and feeding behavior of the pest species may be helpful in planning control strategies (Adamczewska-Andrezejewska et al., 1979). In the present study efforts have, therefore, been made to determine the most preferred bait base to formulate a suitable carrier for the poison bait for the successful control of this rodent species infesting date-palm orchards in Chaghai and Kharan districts of Baluchistan Province of Pakistan.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Collection of rats

The short-tailed mole rats were live captured through single catch trap from Nok-Kundi, district Chaghai, Baluchistan. The rats after arrival in the laboratory were sexed and individually caged for acclimation for one month before undertaking various tests. Pregnant, lactating and sub-adults were discarded. The rats were fed on a laboratory diet containing wheat, rice maize and fish meal before and between various tests. Water was provided ad-libitium.

Experimental design

Ten rats of each sex with average weight of 293g were kept in separate mesh cages of size 30x20x10 cm and were provided with nest box and nesting material. Six cereals viz., wheat, rice maize, millet, peanut and sunflower seed were used for single feed.

For two-feed test rice was fed with wheat, maize, millet, peanut, and sunflower seed in separate combination. Likewise wheat was fed with maize, peanut, millet and sunflower seed in separate combinations. Similarly, maize was fed with peanut, millet, sunflower seed and millet was fed with sunflower seed and peanut and sunflower seed was fed with peanut. Rice, wheat, maize, millet, peanut and sunflower seed were offered to rats for multiple-feed test.

All grains except millet and sunflower seed were offered in coarse form with particle size 2.5-3.5 mm. Millet and sunflower seed were offered as whole which measured 0.8-2.00 mm and 8.0-10.0 mm, respectively. The weight of the each rat was recorded before the start of each test. Each cereal, weighing 30 g was offered daily in feeding cups.

The left over grain and spillage were collected after 24 h intervals, by placing clothing paper underneath the cages and weighed to calculate mean daily consumption with an accuracy of 0.1g. Each day fresh bait was offered and left over was discarded due to urine and faecal contamination by the rats. The position of feeding cups was changed daily to avoid any place preference trend. Each test lasted for 7 consecutive days. The rats were reused in the tests and re-arranged in the subsequent groups so that previous test food exposure is evenly distributed among new groups. To further carry over effects five days rest period was maintained between various tests during which animals were fed on laboratory diet. Spillage was collected daily and left-over was weighed to calculate the daily consumption.

Statistical analysis

Mean daily intake was converted in to gm consumed/kg body weight/day and percent consumption in choice tests was compared. Mean food consumption data was analyzed by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) for significant effects. The individual mean comparisons were made using least significant difference (LSD) test. Under paired choice tests students t' test was applied to analyze the mean consumption between different cereals. The percentage preference values were calculated by dividing the test food by the total food offered consumption and then multiplying by 100.

Table I.-Average daily consumption and percentage preference of short-tailed mole rat (Nesokia indica) among various food items under no-choice tests.

###Mean daily

###No. of###Mean body###consumption

###Feed item###animals###weight SE###SE

###(n)###(g)###(g/kg body

###wt),

Rice###10###196.7733.99###47.755.73a

Maize###10###197.4633.99###35.282.98b

Wheat###10###255.5233.09###30.553.04b

Peanut###10###266.4833.39###27.952.12b

Millet###10###325.7136.48###26.581.93b

Sunflower seed###10###236.2233.84###26.684.80b

RESULTS

No-choice test

Single feed test

Under no-choice test, the offered cereal baits i.e. wheat, rice, maize, millet, peanut and sunflower seed were provided separately to rats. Results of the mean daily consumption of different grains showed that rice was the most preferred food item, followed by maize, wheat, peanut, millet and sunflower seed (Table I). The analysis of variance (ANOVA) value suggested that difference among the consumption of different food items was significant (F5,14=3.97; Pless than 0.05). Mean separation by least significant difference (LSD) test revealed that rice was consumed significantly, while non-significant difference was recorded among wheat, maize, millet, peanut and sunflower seed.

Table II.-Average daily intake and percentage preference of Nesokia indica under paired choice tests.

###Mean body###Average daily intake SE

###Feed combinations###Percent preference

###weight SE (g)###(g/kg body wt)

###1###2###(n=10)###1###2###1###2

Rice vs.###Wheat###277.52+33.89###20.713.84###16.582.61###55.54###44.46

Rice vs.###Maize###290.00+34.25###21.355.89###17.052.64###55.82###44.18

Rice vs.###Millet###328.66+31.89###28.342.73###9.661.19###74.58###24.42

Rice vs.###Peanut###321.28+34.32###21.342.68###8.141.37###72.39###27.61

Rice vs.###Sunflower seed###290.00+34.25###22.252.88###10.912.45###67.10###32.90

Wheat vs.###Maize###334.62+33.49###19.683.01###15.602.18###55.78###44.22

Wheat vs.###Millet###328.73+30.55###22.153.33###18.891.80###53.97###46.23

Wheat vs.###Peanut###337.71+32.28###20.582.04###8.321.44###71.21###28.79

Wheat vs.###Sunflower seed###335.71+34.10###24.111.91###12.752.03###65.41###34.59

Maize vs.###Peanut###341.04+31.52###16.781.06###10.041.26###62.57###37.43

Maize vs.###Millet###325.77+35.63###11.981.41###20.803.45###36.55###63.45

Maize vs.###Sunflower seed###334.92+32.18###24.831.28###9.540.84###72.24###27.76

Millet vs.###Sunflower seed###326.00+34.19###17.541.21###11.691.59###60.00###40.00

Millet vs.###Peanut###330.31+30.38###25.892.90###12.621.22###67.23###32.77

Sunflower seed vs.###Peanut###341.20+30.93###8.060.76###10.941.40###42.42###57.58

Table III.-Average daily consumption (g/kg body weight) of short-tailed mole rat (Nesokia indica) on various food items in multiple-feed choice test.

###No. of animals###Mean body weight of rats###Mean daily consumption###Percent

###Feed items

###(n)###SE (g)###SE (g/kg body wt.) ,###preference

###Rice###18.832.26a###35.47

###Wheat###13.922.71b###26.22

###Peanut###10###308.1326.46###11.221.13b###21.15

###Maize###5.821.13c###10.96

###Millet###3.080.89cd###5.80

###Sunflower seed###0.210.68d###0.40

Choice test

Two feed test

The test was conducted to compare the consumption trend between two cereal baits in fifteen various combinations (Table II). In rice-wheat combination, non-significant difference in consumption was found (Pgreater than 0.05). Likewise, equal trend of preference was recorded with rice (55.54%) and wheat (44.46%).

In rice-maize combination, non-significant difference in cereal intake was recorded (Pgreater than 0.05).

The preference trend was titled towards rice (55.82%) in comparison to preference for maize (44.18%).

In case of rice-millet combination, significant difference was found (t: 5.8621, df, 14; Pless than 0.005). Rice preference was recorded three times higher over millet i.e. 74.58% and 24.42%, respectively. Likewise, significant difference was found in rice-peanut combination (t: 4.09, df 14; Pless than 0.05), while rice-sunflower combination remained non-significant.

Under four different combinations of wheat with various offered cereal baits i.e. maize, millet, peanut and sunflower seed, significant difference in consumption was noted in wheat vs peanut combination (t: 4.50, df 14; Pless than 0.05 and t: 3.8, df 14; Pless than 0.05). While non-significant difference was recorded in rest of the combinations. Significant difference was noted under wheat vs. sunflower seed, maize vs. peanut and maize vs. millet combinations (Pless than 0.05). Percentage preference of wheat remained on the higher side in comparison to sun flower seed, peanut and millet. In wheat vs. sunflower seed combination wheat was consumed by two-fold (65.41%) over sunflower (34.59%). Similar trend was observed in maize vs. peanut combination i.e. maize (62.57%), while reverse trend was observed in maize vs. millet combinations (millet, 63.45% and maize, 36.55%). The preference of maize was on the higher side (72.24%), in comparison to sunflower seed (27.76%) in maize vs. sunflower seed combination.

In case of two combinations of millet in comparison to sunflower seed and peanut, significant difference of intake was noted as revealed by t' test in millet vs peanut (t: 3.85, df 14; Pless than 0.05) and millet vs sunflower seed (t: 2.731, df 14; Pless than 0.05). In both combinations, millet intake remained double over others. Millet bait was consumed by 60.00% in comparison to sun flower seed (39.99%). Similarly in case of millet vs peanut, millet intake was recorded 47.33% in reference to peanut (32.77%). In sunflower seed and peanut combination, non-significant difference of intake was noted. The preference of rats for both grains remained almost similar (sun flower, 42.42% and peanut, 57.58%).

Multiple choice test

Under multiple-choice test, all six offered cereals were exposed to rats in the same cage for seven days. The results showed significant difference (F=18.25; df 5.48; Pless than 0.05) by ANOVA. (Table III). Rice grain remained the most preferred grain (35.47%) followed by wheat (26.22%), peanut (21.15%), maize (10.96%) and millet (5.80%). The sunflower seed was the least sampled food (0.40%). The result of LSD test showed significant difference of rice grain in comparison to others. Likewise, wheat and peanut were consumed significant by more over maize, millet and sunflower. The consumption of maize and millet remained significantly higher over sunflower seed, however, mean consumption value between wheat-peanut and maize-millet remained non-significant (Pgreater than 0.05). Results of multiple-choice test confirmed those of no-choice (single choice) and paired-choice test in which rice grain emerged the most preferred cereal followed by wheat and peanut.

DISCUSSION

The study showed that rice grain consistently appeared as the most preferred food item under all laboratory conducted tests against N. indica. Wheat remained the second most frequently consumed food grain and its consumption remained significantly lower than rice in all the combinations.

Most of the field rodents are selective in choosing their food, when different natural foods are available (Prakash, 1969). Food preferences are influenced by calorigenic value (Mathur et al., 1992) and palatability of the food items (Young, 1946). Daily requirement of different nutrients like fats, protein and carbohydrates may also affect the feeding preference of the specific animal and/or population of an area. (Stenseth, 1977). The preference of the food may depend on the acclimatization of the animal or population to the frequently available food in the area (Mushtaq et al., 2009). N. indica showed no sign of grain preference due to its being nearer to the food station. However, many rat species had selective preference for certain grains. According to Shafi et al. (1988) there was no influence of specific locus as long as the food are separated equidistant from the animal. Food preference criteria in field rodents may be different than those of commensal rats.

In case of commensal rats, the preferred foods are almost always available and known to rats, but for field rats e.g., B. bengalensis and N. indica, the choice of preference depends on the season and animal may have to switch over to others/less preferred type of food, when the preferred food becomes scare. Sometimes, the food is selected more on the basis of availability than that of palatability, energy or protein contents (Pervez, 2007). However, for the field rats, B. bengalensis and N. indica being extensive burrower (especially N. indica) they select the food to compensate the daily energy requirement (Clapperson, 2006). According to Spillet (1968) field rodents not always select foods in its preferential nature but observing other individuals while foraging, and may also play a significant part in food sampling.

The preference of cracked form over whole form of grain in rats is well documented (Jackson, 1965). The definite reason for the preference of cracked form of grains is difficult to interpret; however, it has the practical value for N. indica control as it can adhere a higher quantity of the rodenticides. Field studies related to N. indica with different poisons are required to test the efficacy of selected grains as effective bait base.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors are grateful to Dr. Mubarik Ahmed, Director General, SARC for providing technical support during the study. The research was conducted through financial support under ALP/USAID Project, which is greatly acknowledged. The assistance rendered by field team of VPCI/SARC to collect live rats is highly appreciated.

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Publication:Pakistan Journal of Zoology
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Date:Oct 31, 2015
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