Prey use by four syntopic carnivores in a strandveld ecosystem

Avenant N.L. ; Nel J.A.J. (1997)


The diet of four syntopic carnivore species (caracal Felis caracal, water mongoose Atilax paludinosus, small grey mongoose Galerella pulverulenta, and yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata) over a 12-month period in a coastal shrub ecosystem was examined using scat analysis. Use of prey by all four species fluctuated synchronously and tracked corresponding fluctuations in prey availability. This, as well as the use of relatively small food items (e.g. beetles, scorpions and spiders), indicate an absence of dietary specialization and an opportunistic feeding behaviour in the carnivores studied. Food niche breadth in all four species changed seasonally, being widest during spring and contracting gradually towards winter. A considerable degree of food niche overlap existed between species. Rodents (mainly Rhabdomys pumilio and Otomys unisulcatus) were the main prey items of all four carnivore species and were used heavily throughout the year, despite marked declines in numbers towards winter.

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