, Volume 67, Issue 11, pp 1731-1743

Simultaneous GPS tracking reveals male associations in a solitary carnivore

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Abstract

In hypercarnivorous species, females have large spatial requirements to meet their nutritional needs, and food competition among females is intense. As a result, females are typically solitary and territorial, and solitary males compete for access to dispersed females. Yet, largely anecdotal reports indicate that facultative male sociality may be more common in solitary carnivores than previously thought. We studied spatial interactions among fossas (Cryptoprocta ferox), Madagascar's largest carnivore, using simultaneous GPS tracking of 13 adult individuals to determine patterns of sex-specific spatial distribution and sociality. Male home ranges were larger than those of females, male home ranges overlapped more with those of other males than those of females with other females. Whereas some males were solitary, a subset of adult males was found to have very high home range overlap, high rates of co-location within <50 m, low minimum inter-individual distances, and significantly positive “dynamic interaction”. These associated dyads sometimes, but not always, were close relatives. The fact that solitary and associated males coexist in this population raises interesting questions concerning constraints and flexibility of social tolerance. This study yielded preliminary indications that female distribution appears to be primarily structured by resource competition, whereas male sociality seems to depend on demographic chance events, yet unknown proximate determinants of social tolerance, and it is associated with somatic and reproductive advantages. Male associations among carnivores are therefore more widespread and appear to be based on a wider range of factors than previously thought.

Communicated by K. E. Ruckstuhl