Dias, D. M; Massara, R. L; Campos, C. B. & Rodrigues, F. H. G. 2019. Feline predator–prey relationships in a semi-arid biome in Brazil. Journal of Zoology
The spatiotemporal distribution of a predator within an environment tends to be synchronized with that of its prey, to maximize the efficiency of its hunting behavior. However, small predators may also be obliged to avoid potentially agonistic encounters with larger predators due to interspecific competition and intraguild predation. We used occupancy models and indices of temporal overlap to evaluate whether the occurrence of prey species, ocelots and top predators (puma and jaguar) influenced the habitat use and activity patterns of the northern tiger cat and jaguarundi in a region of the semi-arid Caatinga biome in Bahia, northeastern Brazil. The occurrence of prey had a positive influence on the use of habitat by the small felids. The northern tiger cat was nocturnal-crepuscular and presented a high degree of temporal overlap with Spix’s cavy and the rock cavy. The jaguarundi was diurnal, by contrast and overlapped temporally with the agouti. The occurrence of the ocelot did not influence the habitat or daily activity pattern of the jaguarundi, but presented a high degree of temporal overlap with the northern tiger cat, which adopted a strategy of spatial segregation to avoid direct contact with this dominant competitor. The top predators did not influence the spatiotemporal distribution of the small felids, indicating that their niches are segregated by dietary parameters related to differences in body size. Our results indicate that the availability of prey has a more profound influence on the spatiotemporal ecology of the small felids than the occurrence of the top predators, although the presence of the northern tiger cat appeared to be correlated negatively with that of the ocelot. We believe that environmental factors, such as the conservation status, size and isolation of native habitats, may have a fundamental influence on the strategies adopted by the northern tiger cat to mediate its coexistence with the ocelot.