3 years ago

Space use and temporal partitioning of sympatric Tasmanian devils and spotted‐tailed quolls

Georgina E. Andersen, Christopher N. Johnson, Menna E. Jones

Sympatric species can minimise interspecific competition by spatial avoidance or by altering their temporal activity to reduce encounter rates. The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), the largest carnivorous marsupial, coexists with the smaller spotted‐tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) in Tasmania, Australia. Quolls may be susceptible to interspecific competition from devils, because they utilise similar habitats, consume similar prey species and are displaced by devils at food sources. Such competition might cause quolls to spatially or temporally avoid devils. To investigate whether spatial or temporal avoidance occurred, we deployed GPS collars on sympatric devils and quolls and conducted a camera survey at a site in northwest Tasmania where the devil population was not affected by devil facial tumour disease. GPS tracking coincided with the lactation period when devils and quolls had young in dens and continued until weaning occurred. We found little spatial segregation of home range and core area placement between devils and quolls and among devils. Quolls showed more spatial segregation within the sexes than between them. Devils had larger home ranges than quolls. Male devils had larger home ranges than females, but there was no difference in home range size between the sexes of quolls. Females of both species travelled significantly further per night than did males. There was moderate temporal partitioning between the two species: devil activity peaked after dusk and devils remained active until the early morning, while quoll activity showed distinct peaks around dusk and dawn. In conclusion, quolls did not spatially avoid devils but moderate temporal partitioning occurred. It is plausible that quolls are active at different times of the diel cycle to reduce encountering devils, but further studies are needed to resolve the cause of this temporal partitioning.

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