Altitudinal distribution of rodents (Muridae and Gliridae) on Mt Elgon, Uganda



Small mammals were surveyed along a transect in Mt Elgon National Park,
Uganda, at altitudes from 2900 to 4300 m a.s.l., with the main focus in the Afroalpine
grasslands above 3500 m a.s.l. In this study, 13 species belonging to the
Muridae were recorded, but only one species Lophuromys flavopunctatus Thomas
1888, occurred in all habitats. The highest species and individual numbers were
found in richly structured vegetation in the Afro-alpine zone. Twenty-four species
of Muridae and one Gliridae have been recorded from the Mt Elgon NP, Uganda
(> 2000 m a.s.l.) so far, two more have been found on the Kenyan side and are
likely to occur in Uganda. A total of 34 species of Muridae have been recorded on
the whole range of Mt Elgon, two being endemic to the Afro-alpine zone, one listed
as vulnerable and one as rare by the IUCN (LIDICKER 1985).
The present distribution patterns and composition of the montane rodent
communities are a result of different evolutionary histories mainly brought
about by past changes in climate and vegetation. A number of montane rodents
in Africa are relict forms, which declined due to habitat changes and competition
from invading “modern” species.
KEY WORDS: rodents, Mt Elgon, ecology, elevation gradient, conservation, biogeography.

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