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Feeding specialisation in badgers

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Journal

Canadian Journal of Zoology, Volume 80,Number 1, January 2002, pp. 83-93(11) - NRC Research Press

Authors

Revilla E.; Palomares F.

Abstract

Several local populations of the otherwise trophic-generalist Eurasian badger (Meles meles) have been defined as specializing locally on temporally variable food resources such as earthworms (Lumbricus spp.), olive fruits (Olea europaea), or young rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), owing to a lack of correlation between resource availability and use. However, theoretical models predict that temporal variation in resources reduces the probability of diet specialization. To understand the relationship between temporal resource variability and local feeding specialization, we studied temporal variation in diet composition and diversity (using fecal analysis), the availability of a temporally stable key resource, and the relation between consumption and availability of rabbits (key prey) and invertebrates (secondary prey) for a badger population previously described as specialized on young rabbits. We found strong variations in the use of different resources (including young rabbits) and in diet diversity among seasons and years. The main food resource was young rabbits during winter and spring, fruits in autumn, and reptiles in summer. Diet diversity was inversely related to consumption of young rabbits and directly related to consumption of secondary prey (invertebrates). Consumption of rabbits (both young and adults) was correlated with their abundance in the field, with a type 3 functional response in the consumption of young rabbits, which is typical of a generalist to whom alternative prey are available. There was no relationship between the abundance of invertebrates and their consumption. Our results show that badgers in the study area were not locally specialized, therefore care should be taken when referring to a population as specialized without an adequate test of the predictions.

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