Tirelli, F. P., Freitas, T. R. O., Michalski, F., Percequillo, A. R., & Eizirik, E. (2018). Using reliable predator identification to investigate feeding habits of Neotropical carnivores (Mammalia, Carnivora) in a deforestation frontier of the Brazilian Amazon. Mammalia.
Accurate identification of predator species is a critical requirement to investigate their diet using faecal samples. We used non-invasive sampling and two methods of predator identification to investigate the diets of sympatric carnivores in a highly deforested region of the Brazilian Amazon. Of 108 scats, 81 could be identified at the species level using DNA sequencing and/or trichology. The former performed better than the latter (81.5% vs. 54.3% of the identified samples), and results were quite congruent (89.7% concordance in the 29 samples that could be assessed with both approaches). Nine species were identified, out of which four (crab-eating fox, ocelot, puma and jaguar) presented a sufficient number of samples to allow dietary analyses. The crab-eating fox was the most generalist (BA=0.92); ocelots focused on small- to medium-sized prey; pumas fed mostly on medium-sized items; and jaguars mostly targeted large-sized prey. A considerable overlap was observed between ocelots and pumas in all estimations (O=0.47-0.83). The presence of jaguars in the same region could be driving pumas to select medium- and small-sized prey. The results of this study highlight the importance of reliable predator identification and the need for in-depth ecological studies in areas where carnivore species are sympatric.