The diets of predators and their selection of prey often shape prey community dynamics. Understanding how different predators select their prey could enable ecologists to predict their impact on specific prey populations. Here, we investigate the diets of the feral cat (Felis catus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and dingo (Canis dingo) in the Simpson Desert of central Australia, over a 1-year period between 2011 and 2012, and compare the selectivity of these predators for small mammalian prey. We found that cats showed the greatest consumption of small mammals, whereas dingoes consumed larger prey, thus indicating preferences for different prey sizes. High occurrence of small mammals in the diets of all predators probably reflected high abundances of small mammals in the environment; rodents declined after an irruption, but were still abundant at the time of sampling. The cat exercised greatest selectivity for small mammal species, whereas the dingo did not positively select for any species. Positive selection by predators for the long-haired rat (Rattus villosissimus) and negative selection for the spinifex hopping-mouse (Notomys alexis) may reflect inefficient and well-developed escape strategies by these 2 prey species, respectively. High selectivity by the cat for Forrest's mouse (Leggadina forresti) suggests that conservation of this rare rodent may depend on effective cat management.
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Vol. 95 • No. 6