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Title: Spatial complexity of carcass location influences vertebrate scavenger efficiency and species composition

Abstract

Scavenging plays an important role in shaping communities through inter- and intra-specific interactions. Although vertebrate scavenger efficiency and species composition is likely influenced by the spatial complexity of environments, heterogeneity in carrion distribution has largely been disregarded in scavenging studies. We tested this hypothesis by experimentally placing juvenile bird carcasses on the ground and in nests in trees to simulate scenarios of nestling bird carrion availability. We used cameras to record scavengers removing carcasses and elapsed time to removal. Carrion placed on the ground was scavenged by a greater diversity of vertebrates and at > 2 times the rate of arboreal carcasses, suggesting arboreal carrion may represent an important resource to invertebrate scavengers, particularly in landscapes with efficient vertebrate scavenging communities. Nonetheless, six vertebrate species scavenged arboreal carcasses. Rat snakes (Elaphe obsolete), which exclusively scavenged from trees, and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) were the primary scavengers of arboreal carrion, suggesting such resources are potentially an important pathway of nutrient acquisition for some volant and scansorial vertebrates. Our results highlight the intricacy of carrion-derived food web linkages, and how consideration of spatial complexity in carcass distribution (i.e., arboreal) may reveal important pathways of nutrient acquisition by invertebrate and vertebrate scavenging guilds.

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1]
  1. Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA (United States); Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River Ecology Lab. (SREL)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Environmental Management (EM)
OSTI Identifier:
1425965
Grant/Contract Number:  
EM0004391
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

Citation Formats

Smith, Joshua B., Laatsch, Lauren J., and Beasley, James C. Spatial complexity of carcass location influences vertebrate scavenger efficiency and species composition. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10046-1.
Smith, Joshua B., Laatsch, Lauren J., & Beasley, James C. Spatial complexity of carcass location influences vertebrate scavenger efficiency and species composition. United States. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10046-1.
Smith, Joshua B., Laatsch, Lauren J., and Beasley, James C. Thu . "Spatial complexity of carcass location influences vertebrate scavenger efficiency and species composition". United States. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10046-1. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1425965.
@article{osti_1425965,
title = {Spatial complexity of carcass location influences vertebrate scavenger efficiency and species composition},
author = {Smith, Joshua B. and Laatsch, Lauren J. and Beasley, James C.},
abstractNote = {Scavenging plays an important role in shaping communities through inter- and intra-specific interactions. Although vertebrate scavenger efficiency and species composition is likely influenced by the spatial complexity of environments, heterogeneity in carrion distribution has largely been disregarded in scavenging studies. We tested this hypothesis by experimentally placing juvenile bird carcasses on the ground and in nests in trees to simulate scenarios of nestling bird carrion availability. We used cameras to record scavengers removing carcasses and elapsed time to removal. Carrion placed on the ground was scavenged by a greater diversity of vertebrates and at > 2 times the rate of arboreal carcasses, suggesting arboreal carrion may represent an important resource to invertebrate scavengers, particularly in landscapes with efficient vertebrate scavenging communities. Nonetheless, six vertebrate species scavenged arboreal carcasses. Rat snakes (Elaphe obsolete), which exclusively scavenged from trees, and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) were the primary scavengers of arboreal carrion, suggesting such resources are potentially an important pathway of nutrient acquisition for some volant and scansorial vertebrates. Our results highlight the intricacy of carrion-derived food web linkages, and how consideration of spatial complexity in carcass distribution (i.e., arboreal) may reveal important pathways of nutrient acquisition by invertebrate and vertebrate scavenging guilds.},
doi = {10.1038/s41598-017-10046-1},
journal = {Scientific Reports},
number = 1,
volume = 7,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {8}
}

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