Due to their short life histories, small mammals are useful indicators of environmental health. Despite
this, little or no investigation on the effects of habitat modification on small mammals’diet in Kenya has
been done. Response of the forest-dependant Praomys delectorum to anthropogenic disturbance in
different forest patches of the Taita Hills suggests that it is an opportunistic omnivore as its population
increases with increase in vegetation intergiditation. This study investigated the effect of habitat
fragmentation on food habits and litter size of P. delectorum in three sub-populations of the Taita Hills
and the Kyulu Hills population. Food habits variation was assessed by comparing morphometry of the
gastrointestinal tract while foetuses and placental scars were used as litter size indicators and the
histology of testes and ovary based on routine histological techniques A significant difference
(F=2.883*, P= 0.043) in the relative length of large intestine was noted which suggested variation in
food quality. There was no significant difference in litter size among the different sub-populations.
Prominent nuclei of primary spermatocytes in the seminiferous tubules of both abdominal and scrotal
testes were indicative of spermatogenesis though germ cells organization was clearer in scrotal
testes. The ovary of female with plugged vagina lacked corpora lutea which were nonetheless
observed in the ovary of females with perforate vagina though developing Graafian follicles were
observed in both. Thus vaginal condition is a good indicator of reproductive status in this species.
Praomys delectorum display a digestive tract adaptation suggestive of an opportunistic feeder. This
may have been due to change in food habits which could be associated with transformation of natural
habitat into fragments.
Author (s) Details
Jemimah Ayuma Simbauni
Department of Zoological Sciences, Kenyatta University, P.O. Box 43844-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.
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