Habitat use is the most common dimension along which sympatric species partition resources to reduce competition. We conducted faecal pellet counts at Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria, to examine habitat use by an assemblage of mammalian herbivores with disparate evolutionary histories and varying body size: introduced European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and hog deer (Axis porcinus), and native eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) and common wombat (Vombatus ursinus). Overlap in habitat use was low between four pairs of species, suggesting spatial partitioning of resources to reduce the potential for interspecific competition. More generally, however, overlap in habitat use was high, particularly between native and introduced grazers. These results indicate the potential for competition if resources were limiting and suggest that assemblages of species with independent evolutionary histories have inherently less resource partitioning to facilitate coexistence than assemblages of species with common evolutionary histories. Despite evidence of high overlap in habitat use between native and introduced species at a broad scale, and variation in the competitive ability of species, coexistence was likely facilitated by niche complementarity, including temporal and fine-scale partitioning of spatial resources. There was no relationship between body size and the diversity of habitats used. In contemporary assemblages of native and introduced species, evolutionary history is likely to have a strong influence on resource partitioning.
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Vol. 65 • No. 4