Carnivorous mammals may go out of their way to avoid other species, just as humans may leave five minutes early to avoid a chatty neighbor or leave work late to avoid an unpleasant coworker.
Carnivores are an important part of the food web, which describes which organisms feed which others in nature. The food web’s organisms are divided into trophic, or nutritional, levels.
However, they are not attempting to manage unpleasant social encounters; rather, they are attempting to negotiate space and resources in order to survive. Herbivores are eaten by many predators. Some eat omnivores, while others eat carnivores.
Tertiary consumers are carnivores that consume other carnivores. Obligate carnivores are carnivores that rely solely on meat for survival.
Researchers used 73 infrared trigger sensor cameras deployed at three sites in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo, the world’s third-largest island, to track this temporal niche partitioning over the course of six years.
The vast majority of carnivores aren’t obligate carnivores. A hypercarnivore is a creature that eats at least 70% of its food from animals.
On October 6, the multinational team published their findings in Scientific Reports, along with their interpretations of what they indicate for the process of coexistence between competing species.
“Approximately 20% of the world’s mammal species face the risk of extinction, mainly due to threats such as habitat loss and overexploitation,” said first author Miyabi Nakabayashi, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering at Hiroshima University. “The status of mammals in the Indomalayan realm one of Earth’s eight biogeographic regions, covering most of South and Southeast Asia is among the world’s worst.”
According to Nakabayashi, one of the greatest hurdles to efficient and realistic solutions for lowering the rate of endangered species is a lack of basic ecological information on mammals in the Indo-Malayan region.
“Information regarding temporal activity patterns of animals is crucial to assess responses to anthropogenic disturbances and to allow the implementation of proper conservation measures,” Nakabayashi said. “Camera trapping is one of the most useful techniques to study cryptic and rare animals.”
Approximately 20% of the world’s mammal species face the risk of extinction, mainly due to threats such as habitat loss and overexploitation. The status of mammals in the Indomalayan realm one of Earth’s eight biogeographic regions, covering most of South and Southeast Asia is among the world’s worst.Miyabi Nakabayashi
Over the course of three active years, the researchers acquired 37,379 pictures. Despite the fact that the first cameras were put in 2010 and the last ones were removed in 2016, the cameras remained inoperable for long periods of time due to inclement weather or logistical challenges such as breeding insects.
The researchers found nine unique carnivore species with sample sizes greater than ten in the dataset and classified their activity patterns by time of day. Six of the species were active at night, two during the day, and one was active all of the time.
Some of the more closely related animals, such as two wild cats, showed strong temporal segregation, with one being nocturnal and the other preferring the day.
However, the researchers discovered that three species of civets were all active at night, which Nakabayashi believes could be due to little resource rivalry because all three species eat a variety of foods.
Tourism may also have an impact on mammalian behavior, according to the study. During the study period, all study locations had tourism activities, mostly non-lethal ecotourism events. However, nocturnal tourist activities were only available at one location.
The common palm civets at the other two sites displayed two distinct peaks of temporal activity at night, whereas the same species at the nocturnal tourist site had a more hazy and delayed temporal pattern.
“The potential benefits of ecotourism may include reduced threats to wildlife,” Nakabayashi said, highlighting that community-based ecotourism can provide substantial benefits such as alternative income, which encourages local communities and policymakers to protect species in areas of interest.
“But our results indicate that the temporal activity pattern of a species might be directly affected by tourism activity. The effect of tourism on animal behavior should be evaluated, even though it is non-lethal ecotourism.”
The researchers also suggested a two to three-year study with at least ten cameras to acquire more information on the animals’ activities.
“Current information is too limited and sporadic to understand basic behaviors of mammals, which may affect the progress in evaluating and improving the threatened status,” Nakabayashi said. “We should accumulate more information on rare species to determine their basic ecology and to reassess whether current conservation management strategies are appropriate.”