Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Big Predatory Mammals Such As Felines Need Between 5 And 7 Different Types Of Prey To Meet Their Dietary Needs

Date:
July 16, 2008
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
Faced with earlier studies stating that the big predators such as tigers, lions, and lynxes fulfill their dietary needs by eating one or two types of prey, scientists now assure us now that felines need from 5 to 7 different types of prey to fulfill their dietary needs, although they may be more specialized anatomically than the canines (wolves, dogs) who can obtain 100% ingested biomass by eating three types of prey.

A sabre-toothed tiger (Megantereon) is chasing a horse.
Credit: Illustration: SINC/Mauricio Antón

Faced with earlier studies stating that the big predators such as tigers, lions, and lynxes fulfil their dietary needs by eating one or two types of prey, scientists from the University of Malaga assure us now that felines need from 5 to 7 different types of prey to fulfil their dietary needs, although they may be more specialised anatomically than the canines (wolves, dogs) who can obtain 100% ingested biomass by eating three types of prey.

This study brings new keys to the paleoecology of the big predators from the past, such as sabre-toothed tigers.

The main aim of this study, set up by Juan Antonio Pérez-Claros and Paul Palmqvist, both researchers from the University of Malaga, has been to quantify an average of the number of preys necessary to fulfil the dietary needs of a big predatory mammal. "Although the big predators (basically feline and canine predators) have been the subject of numerous studies, to date, in this respect, there have been no actual figures to pin this down," Pérez-Claros explains to SINC.

Macroecological studies had reached the consensus that the number of types of prey for these predators would not be very high. However the study shows that only the hypercarnivorous canines (wolves and other species related to dogs) have a diet containing three types of prey.

The novelty of the study lies in the confirmation that the large felines, such as lions and leopards, need "from 5 to 7 preys to fulfil their nutritional requirements," the researcher points out. For Pérez-Claros and his colleague it was a surprise to discover that "only in the case of the hypercarnivorous canines three types of prey were ingested to complete almost the total of what these mammals eat."

According to what is published in the study, the dietary contribution of the canines' prey, in terms of biomass, is equal to or higher than 55% for the first prey, 20% for the second and 10% for the third. On the other hand, the felines need more prey, although there are exceptions with the cheetah and the Iberian lynx, who concentrate a lot of ingested biomass in a few types of prey.

Scientific paradox

This leads to a paradox: in spite of the fact that canines have cranial and dental skeletal characteristics that are less specialised compared to those of the felines, their populations are more specialised ecologically than the felines.

The canines are more omnivorous (they can eat more invertebrate prey and fruit) than the felines, since, even the hypercarnivorous still have a carnivorous set of teeth containing 42 permanent teeth, and molars, that make it possible for them to eat a greater variety of food.

The felines, for their part, have a smaller set of teeth of 30 permanent teeth and it is much more specialised than that of the canines so they can kill with their canines and cut meat with their flesh-eating teeth. The study compares the morphological specialisation of the felines with a marked ecological specialisation in the canines.

In order to reach these conclusions, the researchers have analysed hundreds of publications where the biomass taken by different predators from different prey (tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, cheetah, puma, jaguar, European and Iberian lynx, wolf, African wild dog, Asian wild dog, bush dog or Ethiopian fox) can be calculated.

"In general the biomass has been quantified by analysing the remains of the fur or bones in the faeces since these give more precise results than those based on observations from the hunts," the scientist points out.

Biological analysis of the diet

The researchers' final aim was to quantify the contribution of different sources to the diet of an organism using stable isotopes applied to the paleoecology. In the case of a predator, those sources are the prey, given that the bodies of the organisms are built from what they eat. "Because each prey generally has a particular isotopic composition it is possible to determine how they contribute to a predator's diet. To do this, we analysed the stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the predators' and preys' bones that were preserved in the same deposits," Pérez-Claros points out.

However, just two isotopes determine the contribution of three preys to the diet of a predator. For this reason, the scientists had to confirm that in the present canines and felines the difference between the number of prey that contributes to their diet was a reasonable hypothesis.

Moreover, the results make it possible to conclude that the extinct felines probably needed a higher number of prey to eat, since the fossil records show a greater diversity of potential prey from which to choose during the Plio-Pleistocene era.

 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Pérez-Claros JA; Palmqvist P. How many potential prey species account for the bulk of the diet of mammalian predators? Implications for stable isotope paleodietary analyses. Journal of Zoology, 2008; 275 (1): 9 DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2007.00401.x

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Big Predatory Mammals Such As Felines Need Between 5 And 7 Different Types Of Prey To Meet Their Dietary Needs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080711135024.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2008, July 16). Big Predatory Mammals Such As Felines Need Between 5 And 7 Different Types Of Prey To Meet Their Dietary Needs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080711135024.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Big Predatory Mammals Such As Felines Need Between 5 And 7 Different Types Of Prey To Meet Their Dietary Needs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080711135024.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) — A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins