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Dominant carnivore loss benefits native avian and invasive mammalian scavengers


Fielding, MW and Cunningham, CX and Buettel, JC and Stojanovic, D and Yates, LA and Jones, ME and Brook, BW, Dominant carnivore loss benefits native avian and invasive mammalian scavengers, Royal Society of London Proceedings B Biological Sciences, 289 Article 20220521. ISSN 1471-2954 (In Press) [Refereed Article]

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© 2022. The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

DOI: doi:10.1098/rspb.2022.0521


Scavenging by large carnivores is integral for ecosystem functioning by limiting the build-up of carrion and facilitating widespread energy flows. However, top carnivores have declined across the world, triggering trophic shifts within ecosystems. Here, we compare findings from previous work on predator decline against areas with recent native mammalian carnivore loss. Specifically, we investigate top-down control on utilization of experimentally placed carcasses by two mesoscavengers—the invasive feral cat and native forest raven. Ravens profited most from carnivore loss, scavenging for five times longer in the absence of native mammalian carnivores. Cats scavenged on half of all carcasses in the region without dominant native carnivores. This was eight times more than in areas where other carnivores were at high densities. All carcasses persisted longer than the three-week monitoring period in the absence of native mammalian carnivores, while in areas with high carnivore abundance, all carcasses were fully consumed. Our results reveal that top-carnivore loss amplifies impacts associated with carnivore decline—increased carcass persistence and carrion access for smaller scavengers. This suggests that even at low densities, native mammalian carnivores can fulfil their ecological functions, demonstrating the significance of global carnivore conservation and supporting management approaches, such as trophic rewilding.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:scavenger, trophic cascade, carcass use, survival analysis, mesoscavenger release, carnivore extinction
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Population ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Fielding, MW (Mr Matthew Fielding)
UTAS Author:Cunningham, CX (Mr Calum Cunningham)
UTAS Author:Buettel, JC (Dr Jessie Buettel)
UTAS Author:Yates, LA (Dr Luke Yates)
UTAS Author:Jones, ME (Professor Menna Jones)
UTAS Author:Brook, BW (Professor Barry Brook)
ID Code:154104
Year Published:In Press
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2022-10-28
Last Modified:2022-12-23

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