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Project 4: Endemic giant mole rats as synanthropic landscape engineers

Foto: Christian Höfs

The project is part of the Research Unit 2358 (Mountain Exile Hypothesis). The goal of the project is to disentangle the role of the endemic giant root rat (GMR - Tachyoryctes macrocephalus) as a natural biotic landscape engineer from the anthropogenic imprint on the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia. In doing so, the project contributes to reconstructing the environmental history of the Afroalpine ecosystem. To this end, we are conducting comprehensive and spatially explicit ecological and genetic analyses of the GMR. The following steps of the project will contribute to the overall goal of RU2358: 1) Detailed field surveys of GMR distribution in the Bale Moutains will provide insights into ecology and population genetic structure.  2) We will combine field observations with remote sensing information on GMR burrows and various environmental parameters to scale up the role of GMR as ecosystem engineers, as well as population structure at the landscape level. 3) Excavations of GMR bones during the first phase of the FOR2358 project will allow us to compare population genetic analyses of ancient DNA with those of recent DNA to reconstruct landscape history. In summary, we will scale up the role of GMR as ecosystem engineers to the landscape level, as well as resolve present and historical population dynamics, with the goal of better understanding the presence of humans in the Afroalpine ecosystem of the Bale Mountains.

PIs: Dana Schabo and Nina Farwig

Team: Victoria Reuber and Addisu Asefa

Cooperation partner: Tilaye Wube (Addis Ababa University)

Project funding: DFG