Section: Ecology
Topic: Biology of interactions, Ecology

Insights on the effect of mega-carcass abundance on the population dynamics of a facultative scavenger predator and its prey

10.24072/pcjournal.420 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 4 (2024), article no. e53.

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The interplay between facultative scavenging and predation has gained interest in the last decade. The prevalence of scavenging induced by the availability of large carcasses may modify predator density or behaviour, potentially affecting prey. In contrast to behavioural mechanisms through which scavenging affects predation, the demographic effects of facultative scavenging on predator and prey populations remain poorly studied. We used the semi-natural experimental opportunity in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, where contrasted management measures (culling and artificial supply of water) have led to fluctuations in elephant carrion abundance, to identify the consequences of facultative scavenging on the population dynamics of a large mammalian carnivore, the spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), and its prey. Using a 50-year dataset and Multivariate Autoregressive State Space models, we estimated hyaena and prey densities over four periods contrasted in elephant carrion availability due to management practices. Models that allow hyaena and their prey populations’ growth rate to vary depending on these four periods contributed significantly to explain variations in their density, which is consistent with an effect of management measures on the population dynamics of hyaena and its prey.  Although our results support a predominant role of bottom-up mechanisms, whereby hyaena density is driven by herbivore density, itself driven by resources availability, some subtle patterns of densities could be interpreted as consequences of changes in predation pressure following changes in scavenging opportunities. We discuss why signals of prey and predator population dynamics decoupling are less likely to be observed in systems with a high diversity of prey, such as African savannas, and why inputs of mega-carcasses as pulsed resources hardly impacted top-down relationships in the long run. This study represents a first investigation of the long-term effects of carrion pulses, whose frequency may increase with climate changes, on the classical predator-prey coupling for large mammals.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.420
Type: Research article
Keywords: Facultative scavenging, Predator-prey, African savannas

Sidous, Mellina 1, 2; Cubaynes, Sarah 2; Gimenez, Olivier 2; Drouet-Hoguet, Nolwenn 3, 4, 5; Dray, Stéphane 3; Bollache, Loïc 1; Madhlamoto, Daphine 6; Ngwenya, Nobesuthu Adelaide 6; Fritz, Hervé 3, 4, 7, 8; Valeix, Marion 2, 3, 4

1 Chrono-environnement UMR6249, CNRS, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
2 CEFE, Univ Montpellier, CNRS, EPHE, IRD, Montpellier, France
3 CNRS, Université de Lyon, Université de Lyon 1, VetAgroSup, LBBE, UMR 5558, Villeurbanne, France
4 Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Site (LTSER) France, Zone Atelier “Hwange”, Hwange National Park, Bag 62, Dete, Zimbabwe
5 OFB, Gières, France
6 Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Main Camp Research, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
7 REHABS International Research Laboratory, CNRS – Université Lyon – Nelson Mandela University, George Campus, South Africa
8 Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela University, George Campus, South Africa
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
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     title = {Insights on the effect of mega-carcass abundance on the population dynamics of a facultative scavenger predator and its prey},
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%A Madhlamoto, Daphine
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Sidous, Mellina; Cubaynes, Sarah; Gimenez, Olivier; Drouet-Hoguet, Nolwenn; Dray, Stéphane; Bollache, Loïc; Madhlamoto, Daphine; Ngwenya, Nobesuthu Adelaide; Fritz, Hervé; Valeix, Marion. Insights on the effect of mega-carcass abundance on the population dynamics of a facultative scavenger predator and its prey. Peer Community Journal, Volume 4 (2024), article  no. e53. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.420.

PCI peer reviews and recommendation, and links to data, scripts, code and supplementary information: 10.24072/pci.ecology.100594

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

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