Using scats of a generalist carnivore as a tool to monitor small mammal communities in Mediterranean habitats
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Basic and applied ecology / Gesellschaft für Ökologie [Göttingen] - Göttingen
, p. 155-164
University of Antwerp
Owl pellets have long been used to analyze communities of small mammals, while analogous analyses of faeces of mammal carnivores are not available. We demonstrate that common genet (Genetta genetta) scats can be used as a reliable method to sample small mammal communities and to monitor their variations. We have compiled data on 6350 small mammal remains of 18 species found in scats from 51 different latrines in a 1200 km2 area of northeastern Spain. Genet scats sampled effectively 95.6% of the small mammal species ranging in size from 2.7 to 385 g. Spatial patterns of diet composition along environmental gradients of elevation, climate and land-use matched expected changes in small mammal communities along these gradients according to ecological requirements of prey species. Frequencies of occurrence of prey in genet scats were strongly correlated with frequencies of occurrence in barn owl (Tyto alba) pellets. Genet scats included two forest species not preyed upon by owls, whereas only one species was not preyed upon by genets. Forests species were more frequent in genet than in barn owl diets after correcting for environmental effects, whereas the opposite was true for open-habitat and synanthropic species. Scats of generalist carnivores can be used to estimate the spatial patterns of distribution and abundance of small mammal communities. Genet scats in fact overcome some of the limitations of more traditional sampling methods (live-trapping and owl diets), as genets were less selective and their diets reflect more accurately changes in community composition.