Ecological Functions of Vertebrate Scavenging

  • James C. BeasleyEmail author
  • Zachary H. Olson
  • Nuria Selva
  • Travis L. DeVault
Part of the Wildlife Research Monographs book series (WIREMO, volume 2)


Although the process of converting nutrients sequestered within carcasses has historically been portrayed as occurring at the detrital level, there is a growing consensus that vertebrate scavenging is pervasive among ecosystems across the globe. Throughout this chapter we highlight the central role scavenging plays in ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling and transport within and among ecosystems, biodiversity maintenance, and disease transmission dynamics. Vertebrate scavenging of carrion also can create more stable food webs by promoting food web complexity, providing routes by which communities may sequester resources at higher trophic levels, and subsidizing populations of vertebrates during periods of food limitation. However, anthropogenic activities that directly alter vertebrate scavenging communities or shift the competitive balance among the various groups of organisms that utilize carrion may have cascading impacts within ecosystems and disrupt ecosystem services provided by carrion consumers.


Agricultural ecosystem Białowieża Primeval Forest Biodiversity Carrion Disease Ecosystem services Facultative scavenger Food web Obligate scavenger Yellowstone National Park 



Contributions of James Beasley were partially supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under Award Number DE-EM0004391 to the University of Georgia Research Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • James C. Beasley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zachary H. Olson
    • 2
  • Nuria Selva
    • 3
  • Travis L. DeVault
    • 4
  1. 1.Savannah River Ecology LabWarnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of GeorgiaAikenUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New EnglandBiddefordUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of SciencesKrakówPoland
  4. 4.National Wildlife Research CenterAnimal Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, U.S. Department of AgricultureSanduskyUSA

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