Spatio-temporal interactions facilitate large carnivore sympatry across a resource gradient

Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Feb 8;284(1848):20161860. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1860.


Species within a guild vary their use of time, space and resources, thereby enabling sympatry. As intra-guild competition intensifies, such behavioural adaptations may become prominent. We assessed mechanisms of facilitating sympatry among dhole (Cuon alpinus), leopard (Panthera pardus) and tiger (Panthera tigris) in tropical forests of India using camera-trap surveys. We examined population-level temporal, spatial and spatio-temporal segregation among them across four reserves representing a gradient of carnivore and prey densities. Temporal and spatial overlaps were higher at lower prey densities. Combined spatio-temporal overlap was minimal, possibly due to chance. We found fine-scale avoidance behaviours at one high-density reserve. Our results suggest that: (i) patterns of spatial, temporal and spatio-temporal segregation in sympatric carnivores do not necessarily mirror each other; (ii) carnivores are likely to adopt temporal, spatial, and spatio-temporal segregation as alternative mechanisms to facilitate sympatry; and (iii) carnivores show adaptability across a gradient of resource availability, a driver of inter-species competition. We discuss behavioural mechanisms that permit carnivores to co-occupy rather than dominate functional niches, and adaptations to varying intensities of competition that are likely to shape structure and dynamics of carnivore guilds.

Keywords: competition; copredators; inter-species interactions; south Asia; spatial aggregation; temporal activity patterns.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Forests
  • India
  • Panthera / classification*
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Sympatry*

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3674071