5 years ago

Vertebrate diversity benefiting from carrion provided by pumas and other subordinate, apex felids

Carrion promotes biodiversity and ecosystem stability, and large carnivores provide this resource throughout the year. In particular, apex felids subordinate to other carnivores contribute more carrion to ecological communities than other predators. We measured vertebrate scavenger diversity at puma (Puma concolor) kills in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and utilized a model-comparison approach to determine what variables influenced scavenger diversity (Shannon's H) at carcasses. We documented the highest vertebrate scavenger diversity of any study to date (39 birds and mammals). Scavengers represented 10.9% of local birds and 28.3% of local mammals, emphasizing the diversity of food-web vectors supported by pumas, and the positive contributions of pumas and potentially other subordinate, apex felids to ecological stability. Scavenger diversity at carcasses was most influenced by the length of time the carcass was sampled, and the biological variables, temperature and prey weight. Nevertheless, diversity was relatively consistent across carcasses. We also identified six additional stalk-and-ambush carnivores weighing >20kg, that feed on prey larger than themselves, and are subordinate to other predators. Together with pumas, these seven felids may provide distinctive ecological functions through their disproportionate production of carrion and subsequent contributions to biodiversity. We urge conservation managers to increase support for these species, as a means of prioritizing resources to best ensure the persistence of carrion in natural systems.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0006320717303920

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