Intraspecific interactions in a high-density leopard population

Ecol Evol. 2021 Nov 10;11(23):16572-16584. doi: 10.1002/ece3.8227. eCollection 2021 Dec.


Although less studied than interspecific interactions, interactions among members of the same species can influence space use and temporal activity. Using techniques commonly applied to the analysis of interspecific interactions-multispecies occupancy modeling and the analysis of temporal activity patterns-we studied intraspecific interactions within a high-density population of Persian leopards (Panthera pardus saxicolor) in Tandoureh National Park, northeastern Iran. Using camera-trap data, we investigated spatiotemporal interactions between male leopards, lone female leopards, and families (cubs/females with cubs). While we hypothesized that male and female leopards would display different temporal activity patterns, we did not predict spatial avoidance between these groups. We also predicted that leopard families would exhibit spatiotemporal avoidance from male leopards due to the risk of infanticide. Contrary to our expectations, we did not find any evidence for spatial or temporal avoidance between leopard families and adult male leopards. Male and lone female leopards exhibited positive pairwise co-occurrence, consistent with reports of high overlap between male and female leopard home ranges. While a high level of overlap in temporal activity patterns was found between males/lone females and males/families, there was evidence for variation in the proportion of time each leopard group was active in particular periods of the diel cycle. Male leopards showed cathemeral activity, while lone females and families were more active during daylight hours. The application of these techniques to interactions within a species has improved understanding of the ecology and behavior of this endangered solitary carnivore.

Keywords: Panthera pardus; camera trap; intraspecific interaction; multispecies occupancy model; paternity confusion hypothesis; temporal activity.