We mow our lawn mainly because we think it looks clean. The steppe vole also likes a tight lawn, but for completely different reasons.
This small sand-colored rodent is native to China, where it lives in colonies in underground galleries and burrows. Often in the steppe zone. So with a lot of grass. An animal that can also be found, but high in the air, is the shrike. A carnivorous songbird nicknamed the butcher’s bird. Why? Because it has a habit of spearing its prey (including small rodents) on twigs and then occasionally biting them.
So it’s understandable that the average steppe vole would scare it away when a shrike flies overhead. Now the researchers have noticed that the rodent is grazing on the grass near the burrow. Only that they turned out not to because they were hungry. They only did – and quite frantically – that a shrike flew overhead. Conversely, birds often left pieces of steppe with short grass on the left. And if there were no birds, the blades were left alone.
According to the researchers, this discovery shows how well intelligent animals can adapt, but also how important the effect of the disappearance of a species can be. Even for grass.
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