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When the predator becomes prey

Lambers, E. (2017) When the predator becomes prey. Bachelor's Thesis, Biology.

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Mammalian carnivores can have a big influence on ecosystems through direct killing effects, the fear they impose on their prey and cascading effects down to lower trophic levels. Although most research focuses on apex carnivores, the ecological role of mesocarnivores receives increasingly more attention as well. However, mesocarnivores are influenced by apex carnivores themselves as well, whereby apex carnivores are known to kill mesocarnivores, a process called “intraguild predation” (IGP), exerting a form of population control. Recent research, suggests that the ecological effects of IGP are much greater than only population suppression. In this thesis I will review the influence that apex carnivores have on the distribution and behaviour of mesocarnivores. I found that the main motive for IGP seems to be competition for resources. As a result, to survive in an area with apex carnivores, mesocarnivores have to specialize on certain food sources and outcompete the apex carnivores. Furthermore, the safety match hypothesis suggests that mesocarnivores try to avoid apex carnivores both spatially and temporally. This seems to result in mesocarnivores choosing habitats and foraging times regardless of their prey, which can make it look as if the mesocarnivores are avoiding their prey. The presence of apex carnivores also appears to influence feeding behaviour and group behaviour. However, because it is difficult to perform an experimental study on this subject, it is difficult to rule out other hypotheses that could explain the observed patterns. Finally, I will discuss the possibility of humans playing a similar role as apex carnivores, which seems to be possible for some, but not for all mesocarnivore species. All in all, it looks like apex carnivores influence many aspects of mesocarnivore ecology , but since most studies on this subject are observational, it is difficult to draw hard conclusions about the extent of these influences.

Item Type: Thesis (Bachelor's Thesis)
Degree programme: Biology
Thesis type: Bachelor's Thesis
Language: English
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 08:29
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 08:29

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