We documented the habitat selection and use in the ice rat, Otomys sloggetti robertsi, in Lesotho. Ice rats are herbivorous, burrow-dwelling rodents, endemic to the southern African Drakensberg and Maluti mountains at altitudes above 2000 m. We predicted that Ice rat habitat selection is associated with soil qualities suitable for burrowing, as well as the availalbility of food plants and cover. We also tested whether space use changed seasonally and differed between the sexes. We studied habitat selection at different spatial scales, and recorded several biotic and abiotic environmental variables. We found that the presence of food plants (i.e. wetland sedges and herbaceous plants) were the main determinants of the presence of ice rats. Contrary to expectations, soil characteristics and woody vegetation cover were not key determinants of ice rat colonies, regardless of season. Space use was greater in summer than winter, and females utilized larger areas than males in summer. The close association of ice rats with their food plants is also observed in some of its relatives in other habitats. However, unlike other otomyines, ice rats occupy cold environments, and their close proximity to food and distance from cover may be a response to reduce exposure to low temperatures.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1