Distinctive diets of eutherian predators in Australia

Patricia A. Fleming, Alyson M. Stobo-Wilson, Heather M. Crawford, Stuart J. Dawson, Chris R. Dickman, Tim S. Doherty, Peter J.S. Fleming, Thomas M. Newsome, Russell Palmer, Jim A. Thompson, John C.Z. Woinarski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction of the domestic cat and red fox has devastated Australian native fauna. We synthesized Australian diet analyses to identify traits of prey species in cat, fox and dingo diets, which prey were more frequent or distinctive to the diet of each predator, and quantified dietary overlap. Nearly half (45%) of all Australian terrestrial mammal, bird and reptile species occurred in the diets of one or more predators. Cat and dingo diets overlapped least (0.64 ± 0.27, n = 24 location/time points) and cat diet changed little over 55 years of study. Cats were more likely to have eaten birds, reptiles and small mammals than foxes or dingoes. Dingo diet remained constant over 53 years and constituted the largest mammal, bird and reptile prey species, including more macropods/potoroids, wombats, monotremes and bandicoots/bilbies than cats or foxes. Fox diet had greater overlap with both cats (0.79 ± 0.20, n = 37) and dingoes (0.73 ± 0.21, n = 42), fewer distinctive items (plant material, possums/gliders) and significant spatial and temporal heterogeneity over 69 years, suggesting the opportunity for prey switching (especially of mammal prey) to mitigate competition. Our study reinforced concerns about mesopredator impacts upon scarce/threatened species and the need to control foxes and cats for fauna conservation. However, extensive dietary overlap and opportunism, as well as low incidence of mesopredators in dingo diets, precluded resolution of the debate about possible dingo suppression of foxes and cats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number220792
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume9
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2022

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