SICB Division of Ecology and Evolution (DEE)

DEE Researchers Database Entry

Denise Dearing

Foraging Behavior and Dietary Specializations in Herbivores
My research interests are twofold. Since 1985, I have been investigating how plant toxins influence the foraging behavior of vertebrate herbivores and the mechanisms that herbivores employ to process toxins. Currently, my research group is investigating the physiological mechanisms and tradeoffs associated with dietary specialization. We use different woodrat (Neotoma) species as our study system because the diversity of dietary specialists and generalists permits unparalleled comparisons. A more recent addition to my research program is to understand the factors governing the dynamics of an infectious agent (Sin Nombre hantavirus) in wild rodents. At several sites in the Great Basin Desert, we are investigating the prevalence of Sin Nombre in populations of deermice and other rodents. The desert woodrat featured in the photo is a species of interest in both our studies because there are populations of N. lepida that specialize on toxic shrubs and also some populations of N. lepida that host Sin Nombre hantavirus.