Ecologists used to think of prey as the most important factor governing the structure of predator communities. However, over the past twenty years, they have increasingly recognized the importance of interspecific killing – carnivores killing carnivores – in determining ecology and behavior. A new study by Emiliano Donadio and Steven W. Buskirk (University of Wyoming), forthcoming from The American Naturalist, explores which carnivores are most likely to participate in these interactions, and why.
"Although food exploitation is influential in predisposing carnivores to attack each other, relative body size of the opponents appears to be overwhelmingly important," write the authors.
In theory, explain the authors, carnivore species of similar body size would be most likely to compete for similar prey, increasing the likelihood of lethal encounters. However, they found that attacks from carnivores on other carnivores were most frequent when body sizes were moderately different and diet overlap extensive.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
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