Africa supports Earth's richest assemblage of large predators, which coexist despite a high degree of dietary overlap. This study used reviews of the prey preferences of African wild dog Lycaon pictus, cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, leopard Panthera pardus, lion P. leo, and spotted hyaena Crocuta crocuta to investigate the degree of dietary overlap and dietary niche breadth amongst the guild. Wild dogs and cheetahs exhibited the greatest dietary overlap and smallest dietary niche breadth, while lions exhibited the least dietary overlap and, with leopards, had the broadest dietary niche breadth. Increased extinction risk within the guild was related to lower dietary niche breadth. The behavioural and morphological specializations of the two most threatened predators (wild dogs and cheetahs) limit the prey available to them, and increases the potential for dietary competition. Conversely, the large body mass and group hunting strategy of lions and the predatory flexibility of leopards and spotted hyaenas minimizes the effects of dietary overlap, assuring a more secure status. This study intimates reasons why cheetahs and African wild dogs are naturally less common than lions, leopards and spotted hyaenas in unmodified landscapes. The methods used can be applied to all adequately studied faunal guilds and could highlight previously undetected competitors.
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Vol. 38 • No. 2