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Plasticity in circadian activity patterns of mesocarnivores in Southwestern Europe: implications for species coexistence

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Abstract

Limiting similarity theory predicts that competing species must segregate along one or more dimensions of their ecological niche in order to coexist. In predator communities, interspecific interactions are influenced by a diversity of factors; therefore, the behavioural patterns of composing species will differ due to locally adapted interactions. We deployed 32–41 camera-traps in five study areas across the Iberian Peninsula to investigate the temporal relations between mesocarnivores in SW Europe. The selection for a period of the diel cycle and plasticity in activity patterns was evaluated using the Jacobs Selection Index (JSI) and the coefficient of activity overlap (∆1). Furthermore, we investigated whether temporal shifts can facilitate coexistence by reducing activity overlap. Seven species of mesocarnivores were detected and were assigned into one of three behaviourally distinct groups: diurnal (JSIday ≥ 0.8), strictly nocturnal (JSInight ≥ 0.8) or facultative nocturnal species (0.4 ≥ JSInight > 0.8). Most species exhibited substantial flexibility, which allowed them to locally adapt their foraging strategies (intraspecific ∆1 = 0.70–0.77). Mean Δ1 from all interspecific pairwise comparisons was negatively correlated with the number of carnivore species with ≥10 detections (r −0.76, p = 0.02). Our results suggest that temporal segregation is likely to play an important role in facilitating mesocarnivore coexistence, especially with increasing community complexity, where most species’ activity peaks were asynchronous. These results contribute to understanding the dynamics and behavioural strategies of coexisting mesocarnivores, crucial for forecasting the possible outcomes of conservation or management actions.

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Akcnowledgments

This work was partially supported by a PhD grant from the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) to PM (SFRH/BD/37795/2007) and two research projects, one from the Spanish National Plan (project ref: CGL2009-10741) funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and EU-FEDER funds, and another one from the Spanish Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales (project ref: OAPN 352/2011). We thank Pedro Rebelo, Ana Serronha, António Rebelo, António Lages, Pedro Moreira, Ricardo Silva, Rafaela Carreira, Jesús Caro, and Francisco Díaz-Ruiz for their assistance during the fieldwork. We acknowledge the staff from Cabañeros National Park, especially Angel Gómez, the staff from Vale do Guadiana Natural Park, Peneda-Gerês National Park, and Muniellos Natural Reserve for their support during data collection. We also thank the Iberian lynx Life project team: Miguel Ángel Simón, José María Gil-Sanchéz, and Germán Garrote for all their help and information supplied on Sierra de Andújar Natural Park.

Ethical standards

This work was performed in compliance with current Portuguese and Spanish legislation, and follows the European Union’s recommendations regarding animal welfare (permit PPl104.03 by the Castilla La-Mancha University ethics committee). All procedures were carried out with appropriate permits, by the concerned institutions.

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Monterroso, P., Alves, P.C. & Ferreras, P. Plasticity in circadian activity patterns of mesocarnivores in Southwestern Europe: implications for species coexistence. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 68, 1403–1417 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-014-1748-1

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