Gaylynne Carter

Doctor of Philosophy, (Zoology)
Study Completed: 2013
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
The Behavioural Response of a Small Prey Animal to the Odour Cues of Familiar Predators in a New Zealand Model System

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Ship rats are a pervasive threat to endemic flora and fauna. Although ship rats have been well researched, very little work has been done on the behaviour of free-living rats. This is largely due to the expense of the radio transmitters and specialist surveillance cameras used in much wildlife research. Ms Carter investigated invasive ship rats’ behavioural responses to two of their primary predators in New Zealand forests; namely, stoats and cats. She developed experimental protocols that were relatively inexpensive, while generating useful data. Unexpectedly, she found that some ship rats exhibit investigatory behaviours rather than the avoidance response more typically reported in small prey animals. Significantly, this behaviour was found in both captive wild caught rats and their free-living counterparts. This behaviour is important in the fields of animal behaviour, predator-prey interactions, and pest species management. It is also important for conservation managers in New Zealand and beyond.

Professor Isabel Castro
Dr John Innes
Dr Rachel Fewster
Professor Murray Potter