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1 June 2008 Population dynamics and prey selection of native and introduced predators during a rodent outbreak in arid Australia
Chris R. Pavey, Stephen R. Eldridge, Mike Heywood
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We examined population dynamics and trophic ecology of a predator–prey system in the Simpson Desert, Australia, consisting of an assemblage of small mammals (body mass < 100 g) and 4 species of predators: the endemic letter-winged kite (Elanus scriptus), a nocturnal-hunting rodent specialist; and 3 introduced mammalian predators (dingo [Canis lupus dingo], European red fox [Vulpes vulpes], and house cat [Felis catus]). This is the 1st comprehensive study of the responses of both the kite and introduced carnivores to a rodent outbreak. The 3.5-year study period included a population outbreak of about 24 months duration involving 3 native rodent species. Mammalian predators and kites exhibited similar population responses. Kites immigrated into the area within 6 months of the outbreak commencing, and remained while rodent abundance was high; however, all birds left the area after rodent populations crashed within a 6-week period. Dingoes and foxes were more abundant than cats and both species increased during the outbreak. All carnivores were resident. The letter-winged kite fed almost entirely on rodents. Rodents were the main prey of the 3 mammalian predators during the outbreak; however, all species had intermediate niche breadths. Dietary overlap between the kite and each carnivore was high during the rodent outbreak. During a nonoutbreak period, predation on rodents by the red fox remained high, whereas that by the dingo declined. We estimated the number of average-sized rodents (body mass 32.65 g) eaten daily by a nonreproducing individual to range from 1 (letter-winged kite) to 6 (red fox). We also estimated that the 3 mammalian predators (combined) captured 11 times as many rodents per day as letter-winged kites. There is considerable potential for food-based competition between the kite and introduced mammalian predators, particularly the red fox and house cat, in arid Australia.

Chris R. Pavey, Stephen R. Eldridge, and Mike Heywood "Population dynamics and prey selection of native and introduced predators during a rodent outbreak in arid Australia," Journal of Mammalogy 89(3), 674-683, (1 June 2008).
Accepted: 1 November 2007; Published: 1 June 2008

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