Population Ecology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 175–185

Superpredation patterns in four large European raptors

Authors

    • Department of Conservation BiologyEstación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC
    • Laboratory of Ornithology (LabOr), Department of BiologyUniversity of Évora
    • Mediterranean Landscapes and Ecosystems Research Group, ICAAM, Institute of Mediterranean Agricultural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Évora
  • Sara Maria Santos
    • Department of Animal Biology, Centre of Environmental Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of Lisbon
  • João Eduardo Rabaça
    • Laboratory of Ornithology (LabOr), Department of BiologyUniversity of Évora
    • Mediterranean Landscapes and Ecosystems Research Group, ICAAM, Institute of Mediterranean Agricultural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Évora
  • Vincenzo Penteriani
    • Department of Conservation BiologyEstación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC
    • Finnish Museum of Natural History, Zoological MuseumUniversity of Helsinki
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10144-010-0199-4

Cite this article as:
Lourenço, R., Santos, S.M., Rabaça, J.E. et al. Popul Ecol (2011) 53: 175. doi:10.1007/s10144-010-0199-4

Abstract

Predatory interactions among top predators, like superpredation or intraguild predation (IGP), can influence community structure. Diurnal raptors occupy high trophic levels in terrestrial food webs, and thus can regulate the presence of mesopredators. We studied superpredation (the killing and eating of another predator) in four large European raptors. We gathered 121 dietary studies, totalling 161,456 prey for the Goshawk Accipiter gentilis L., Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos L., Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata Vieillot, and Eagle Owl Bubo bubo L. Results showed that superpredation: (1) is a widespread interaction in large raptors, but it can vary according to the top predator species; (2) is not an important energetic resource for large raptors, but rather seems mostly related to diet diversification when the main prey decreases; (3) is spatially clustered reflecting habitat heterogeneity, but shows no temporal or large-scale spatial trends; and (4) it is associated with lower breeding success of the top predator species. These findings support the food stress hypothesis as the main driving force behind increases in superpredation and IGP in raptors, with the decrease in breeding performance as a side effect. Superpredation by large raptors deserves future research to understand its effects on mesopredators, because on one hand it might contribute to promote biodiversity, while on the other hand, it can sometimes represent an additional risk for small populations of endangered mesopredators.

Keywords

Food stressGeneralist dietIntraguild predationMesopredatorsOmnivoryTop predators

Supplementary material

10144_2010_199_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (162 kb)
S1–S5 (PDF 161 kb)

Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2010