Tracking neighbours promotes the coexistence of large carnivores
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScientific Reports 2016, 6 10.1038/srep23198
The study of competition and coexistence among similar interacting species has long been considered a cornerstone in evolutionary and community ecology. However, understanding coexistence remains a challenge. Using two similar and sympatric competing large carnivores, Eurasian lynx and wolverines, we tested the hypotheses that tracking among heterospecifics and reactive responses to potential risk decreases the probability of an agonistic encounter when predators access shared food resources, thus facilitating coexistence. Lynx and wolverines actively avoided each other, with the degree of avoidance being greater for simultaneous than time-delayed predator locations. Wolverines reacted to the presence of lynx at relatively short distances (mean: 383 m). In general, lynx stayed longer, and were more stationary, around reindeer carcasses than wolverines. However, when both predators were present at the same time around a carcass, lynx shortened their visits, while wolverine behavior did not change. Our results support the idea that risk avoidance is a reactive, rather than a predictive, process. Since wolverines have adapted to coexist with lynx, exploiting lynx-killed reindeer carcasses while avoiding potential encounters, the combined presence of both predators may reduce wolverine kill rate and thus the total impact of these predators on semi-domestic reindeer in Scandinavia. Consequently, population management directed at lynx may affect wolverine populations and human-wolverine conflicts.