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A comparative assessment of track plates to quantify fine scale variations in the relative abundance of Norway rats in urban slums

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  • Kathryn P. Hacker
  • Amanda Minter
  • Mike Begon
  • Peter J. Diggle
  • Soledad Serrano
  • Mitermayer G. Reis
  • James E. Childs
  • Albert I. Ko
  • Federico Costa
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>06/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Urban ecosystems
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)561-575
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date6/01/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) living in urban environments are a critical public health and economic problem, particularly in urban slums where residents are at a higher risk for rat borne diseases, yet convenient methods to quantitatively assess population sizes are lacking. We evaluated track plates as a method to determine rat distribution and relative abundance in a complex urban slum environment by correlating the presence and intensity of rat-specific marks on track plates with findings from rat infestation surveys and trapping of rats to population exhaustion. To integrate the zero-inflated track plate data we developed a two-component mixture model with one binary and one censored continuous component. Track plate mark-intensity was highly correlated with signs of rodent infestation (all coefficients between 0.61 and 0.79 and all p-values < 0.05). Moreover, the mean level of pre-trapping rat-mark intensity on plates was significantly associated with the number of rats captured subsequently (Odds ratio1.38; 95% CI 1.19-1.61) and declined significantly following trapping (Odds ratio 0.86; 95% CI 0.78-0.95). Track plates provided robust proxy measurements of rat abundance and distribution and detected rat presence even when populations appeared 'trapped out'. Tracking plates are relatively easy and inexpensive methods that can be used to intensively sample settings such as urban slums, where traditional trapping or mark-recapture studies are impossible to implement, and therefore the results can inform and assess the impact of targeted urban rodent control campaigns.