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Interactions of exotic and native carnivores in an ecotone, the coast of the Beagle Channel, Argentina

Abstract

In coasts bordering highly productive seas, there can be a flux of resources to the terrestrial ecosystem, and terrestrial carnivores can use marine prey extensively. Two native, endangered species (otter Lontra provocax and culpeo fox Pseudalopex culpaeus lycoides) and two exotic species (mink Neovison vison and grey fox Pseudalopex griseus) inhabit the Beagle coast. The objectives of this paper are: (1) to describe the diet, habitat use and distribution of otters, mink and foxes on the coast of the Beagle channel and (2) to discuss the role of marine resources in the ecological interactions among these species. Diet was determined from the analysis of 245 faeces, and distribution was established from sign surveys. Marine prey occurred in the scats of 98.3, 70.4, 35.5 and 18.2% of otters, mink, culpeo and grey foxes, respectively. Other terrestrial species also use marine resources in Southern Patagonia. All this evidence suggests that the Fueguian coastal channels provide an illuminating example of allochthonous food subsidies from the sea. In the community of four sympatric predators, two native (and endangered) and two exotic, coexistence appears to be facilitated by a renewing marine food subsidy.

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Acknowledgments

L Malmierca, N Lokemeyer, DF Valenzuela, MR Silva kindly provided information and facilitated logistics in Tierra del Fuego. M Calvi and N Ferrari collected most samples from Bahía Lapataia before 2006. Faeces analysis was initially supervised by L Fasola and A Abba. M Nardelli and JI Túnez collaborated with molecular analysis. GIS analysis was supervised by JI Túnez and PRODITEL-UNLu provided GIS software. The study was financed by the Darwin Initiative (United Kingdom) and the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Técnica (Argentina, PICT 14173). MHC is researcher of the CONICET. GEMA group is supported by the Department of Basic Sciences from the University of Lujan, the Argentinean Research Council (CONICET) and PROFAUNA organization.

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Correspondence to Marcelo H. Cassini.

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Gomez, J.J., Gozzi, A.C., Macdonald, D.W. et al. Interactions of exotic and native carnivores in an ecotone, the coast of the Beagle Channel, Argentina. Polar Biol 33, 1371–1378 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0826-8

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Keywords

  • Otter
  • Fox
  • Patagonia
  • Diet
  • Habitat use
  • Competition
  • Coastal habitat