, Volume 175, Issue 1, pp 139–150 | Cite as

Human-resource subsidies alter the dietary preferences of a mammalian top predator

  • Thomas M. NewsomeEmail author
  • Guy-Anthony Ballard
  • Peter J. S. Fleming
  • Remy van de Ven
  • Georgeanna L. Story
  • Christopher R. Dickman
Population ecology - Original research


Resource subsidies to opportunistic predators may alter natural predator–prey relationships and, in turn, have implications for how these predators affect co-occurring prey. To explore this idea, we compared the prey available to and eaten by a top canid predator, the Australian dingo (Canis lupus dingo), in areas with and without human-provided food. Overall, small mammals formed the majority of dingo prey, followed by reptiles and then invertebrates. Where human-provided food resources were available, dingoes ate them; 17 % of their diet comprised kitchen waste from a refuse facility. There was evidence of dietary preference for small mammals in areas where human-provided food was available. In more distant areas, by contrast, reptiles were the primary prey. The level of seasonal switching between small mammals and reptiles was also more pronounced in areas away from human-provided food. This reaffirmed concepts of prey switching but within a short, seasonal time frame. It also confirmed that the diet of dingoes is altered where human-provided food is available. We suggest that the availability of anthropogenic food to this species and other apex predators therefore has the potential to alter trophic cascades.


Canidae Canis lupus dingo Diet Dingo Desert 



This research was undertaken under the Animal Care and Ethics Authority O06/009 from Orange Animal Ethics Committee, clearance number A05020 from Charles Darwin University Animal Ethics Committee and permit number 33607 from Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife. The Central Land Council provided permit number CD004 for conducting research on Aboriginal Land. We adhered to all conditions. Work was funded and supported by Newmont Tanami Operations, the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre and the Central Land Council. Many members of the Warlpiri community assisted in the field. Particular thanks to Shaun Wilson who assisted on most field trips. Prey availability data were collected as part of the Regional Biodiversity Monitoring Project funded by Newmont Tanami Operations. Many people assisted with that work, in particular those from the Central Land Council and Low Ecological Services. Rachel Paltridge and Steve Eldridge most thoroughly completed the identification of species in faecal samples collected on the first trip. Bill Low, Al Glen and Alex Diment provided valuable comments on early drafts.

Supplementary material

442_2014_2889_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (74 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 74 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas M. Newsome
    • 1
    Email author
  • Guy-Anthony Ballard
    • 2
  • Peter J. S. Fleming
    • 3
  • Remy van de Ven
    • 4
  • Georgeanna L. Story
    • 5
  • Christopher R. Dickman
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Heydon-Laurence BuildingUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary IndustriesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  3. 3.Vertebrate Pest Research UnitNSW Department of Primary IndustriesOrangeAustralia
  4. 4.Biometric UnitNSW Department of Primary IndustriesOrangeAustralia
  5. 5.‘Scats About’Majors CreekAustralia

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