Sympatric predator odour reveals a competitive relationship in size-structured mammalian carnivores
Andersen, GE and Johnson, CN and Jones, ME, Sympatric predator odour reveals a competitive relationship in size-structured mammalian carnivores, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70, (11) pp. 1831-1841. ISSN 0340-5443 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Interspecific competition between sympatric carnivores can have a profound effect on the structure, function and composition of ecosystems. Interspecific competition is often asymmetrical and the smaller carnivore is usually affected the most. We investigated the behavioural responses of two native species, the larger Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) and the smaller spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) to each otherís odour and to that of an introduced predator, the feral cat (Felis catus), in north-west Tasmania, Australia. We used an experimental array of camera traps, in which carnivore scats were added as treatments. Behavioural responses exhibited by devils and quolls are indicative of a dominant predator-mesopredator relationship and suggest the potential for interspecific competition. The larger predator, the devil, was as vigilant at quoll odour as at control camera traps, but showed decreased vigilance at cat odour and did not avoid cat or quoll odours. The smaller predator, the spotted-tailed quoll, increased its vigilance near devil odour compared to control camera traps but did not avoid it. This experiment shows that assessing the behavioural responses of sympatric carnivores to each otherís odour can help understand predator interactions and reveal the potential for interspecific competition. Understanding these interactions is crucial in managing and conserving carnivores.