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Mouse Meals

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Deer and White-footed Mice are viewed negatively due to their association with Deer, or Black-legged, Ticks, carriers of Lyme Disease.  However, these mice are also beneficial, not only as a staple prey food for many predators, but as a vital contributor to the health of our forests.

Mice help spread various kinds of fungi by eating the fruiting bodies (which contain spores) and eventually excreting the spores.   Certain fungi colonize the root system of trees, creating a symbiotic relationship called mycorrhizae. The fungus provides increased water and nutrient absorption capabilities to the tree while the tree provides the fungus with carbohydrates formed from photosynthesis. For many temperate forest trees, these fungi have been shown to be an essential element in order for them to prosper. By consuming fungi and dispersing their spores, these small rodents are inadvertently contributing to the vitality of our forests. (Note: look for the tiny incisor marks of mice in the devoured fungus.)

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10 responses

  1. The wondrous balance of mother nature that seems to work so well… without the intervention of humans!

    November 30, 2016 at 8:36 am

  2. Cheron barton

    Hummm.. interesting!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    November 30, 2016 at 8:43 am

  3. janetpesaturo

    Great post. Through my trail camera work, I’ve come to suspect that mice are a keystone species, because they link so many other species together in different habitats. They visit latrines of other mammals, eating scat contents, from cherry pits in bear scat to fish scales in otter scat. They climb trees to raid red squirrel caches, create their own caches in old bird nests, and make their own nests in old woodpecker cavities. I’ve been thinking of their role in seed dispersal, as well as disease spread (which we humans view negatively, but which is also way in which populations are controlled), but did not know about their role in spreading the spores of mycorrhizal fungi. Good stuff!

    November 30, 2016 at 8:44 am

    • What you’ve observed is fascinating!

      November 30, 2016 at 10:01 am

  4. Helen downing

    Mouse Meals

    Tiny incisor bites
    Like fingerprints and fossils
    Leave a sign of life
    On fungi growing in the forest

    Would my supper plate in town
    Invite such rumination
    And study? Ÿ

    November 30, 2016 at 8:59 am

  5. Kathie Fiveash

    Mary, have you – and any of the rest of you naturally curious folks – read the amazing chapter called “Voles, Fungi, Spruce, and Abandoned Beaver Meadows” from John Pastor’s book What Should a Clever Moose Eat? It was in Northern Woodlands a couple of issues ago. Your post reminded me – such intricate webs! I bought the book on the strength of that chapter, and it has lots of interesting ecological studies.

    November 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    • Hi Kathie, The chapter you refer to was published in the Northern Woodlands most recent magazine, which I get (and write for) and I found it fascinating. I thought about buying the book, but haven’t done so yet – I gather you feel it would be worth having it?

      November 30, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      • Kathie Fiveash

        Yes. Everything in it is not as elegant as the beaver meadow chapter, but lots of good stuff.

        December 1, 2016 at 9:48 am

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