Competition and coexistence in a small carnivore guild
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The potential for strong competition among small sympatric carnivores results in a need for coexistence strategies whereby competitors partition along spatial, temporal and dietary axes as a means to reduce ecological overlaps. We determined spatial and temporal partitioning patterns of a guild of small African carnivores: the African wildcat Felis silvestris lybica, grey mongoose Galerella pulverulenta, small-spotted genet Genetta genetta, striped polecat Ictonyx striatus, and the yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata. We quantified the degree of spatial and temporal co-occurrence of the small carnivores using camera trap data over a year-long period. Carnivores separated into two temporal groups: nocturnal species (wildcat, polecat and genet) and diurnal species (mongooses). In addition, carnivores within the same temporal group had strong patterns of reduced spatial co-occurrence. The smaller bodied carnivores showed lower co-occurrence with the larger bodied African wildcat than expected by chance, supporting the idea of dominant competitor avoidance. Thus, small carnivores likely minimise competitive interactions through spatio-temporal habitat partitioning.
KeywordsBiodiversity hotspot Spatial partitioning Temporal partitioning Diel cycle Succulent Karoo
We thank The Cape Leopard Trust, Conservation South Africa and South African National Parks for logistical and/or funding support throughout the project. This research received funding from Woolworths Holdings Limited and ABAX Foundation. Afrihost, Bridgestone, K-Way and Supa Quick provided in kind assistance. KJT was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Canada Graduate Scholarship—Doctoral at the University of British Columbia and BC was supported by a Claude Leon Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cape Town. Karoo PEACE (Predator Ecology And Coexistence Experiment) team volunteers assisted with data collection and processing. We are grateful to Namaqua National Park employees and private land owners around the park for allowing us to carry out the study on their property. Additionally, we thank Professor Herwig Leirs of the University of Antwerp for his feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript.
Author contribution statement
JDS, KT and BC originally formulated the idea, BC and KT developed the field methodology and protocol, JDS, BC and KT developed the statistical methodology, JDS analysed the data, JDS and BC wrote the manuscript, and KT provided editorial advice.
Compliance with ethical standards
All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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