Dietary breadth and overlap among five sympatric prairie carnivores

  • Azevedo F
  • Lester V
  • Gorsuch W
 et al. 
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Ecological communities are shaped, in part, by the manner in which similar species consume and partition food resources. To better understand the structure of a mammalian carnivore community from a prairie habitat in central North America, we determined the dietary breadth and overlap of sympatric American badgers Taxidea taxus, coyotes Canis latrans, red foxes Vulpes vulpes, raccoons Procyon lotor and striped skunks Mephitis mephitis, via stomach content analysis of 411 carcasses salvaged as part of a predator control program in southern Saskatchewan, Canada (2000–2001). Carnivores consumed a total of 25 separate food items; for all species except raccoons, the majority of stomachs contained mammals, whereas other foods such as amphibians, bird remains and insects were also recovered. Raccoon stomachs tended to contain wheat seed, eggshells and birds. Dietary breadth varied among the five carnivore species, being narrowest for raccoons and widest for skunks. Overall, dietary overlap tended to be highest for species pairings associated with the highest level of presumed niche similarity, which included raccoon–skunk and coyote–fox dyads. Yet, levels of dietary overlap exhibited notable interannual variability for most species pairings. The assessment of a larger assemblage of carnivores within a North American prairie community shows that marked interspecific and temporal variation in dietary breadth and overlap may characterize a guild of sympatric species occupying similar habitat.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Community
  • Dietary breadth
  • Niche differentiation
  • Overlap
  • Prairie
  • Sympatric carnivores

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  • F. C C Azevedo

  • V. Lester

  • W. Gorsuch

  • S. Larivière

  • A. J. Wirsing

  • D. L. Murray

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