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Extensive aquatic subsidies lead to territorial breakdown and high density of an apex predator

By Charlotte E Eriksson, Daniel L.Z Kantek, Selma S Miyazaki, Ronaldo G Morato, Manoel dos Santos-Filho, Joel S Ruprecht, Carlos A. Peres, Taal Levi

Posted 31 Mar 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.29.437596

Energetic subsidies between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems can strongly influence food webs and population dynamics. Our objective was to study how aquatic subsidies affected jaguar (Panthera onca) diet, sociality, and population density in a seasonally flooded protected area in the Brazilian Pantanal. The diet (n = 138 scats) was dominated by fish (46%) and aquatic reptiles (55%), representing the first jaguar population known to feed extensively on fish and to minimally consume mammals (11%). These aquatic subsidies supported the highest jaguar population density estimate to date (12.4 per 100 km2) derived from camera traps (8,065 trap nights) and GPS collars (n = 13). Contrary to their mostly solitary behavior elsewhere, we documented social interactions previously unobserved between same-sex adults including cooperative fishing, co-traveling, and play. Our research demonstrates that aquatic subsidies seen in omnivores can be highly influential to obligate carnivores leading to high population density and altered social structure.

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