ABSTRACT

Dingoes (Canis dingo) are known for hunting and killing animals to meet their energetic requirements, but like almost all predators they also scavenge animal remains. To improve our understanding of dingo scavenging ecology, we investigated the role of abiotic and biotic factors in shaping carcass utilisation by dingoes and further determined whether dingo scavenging influenced carcass persistence in the landscape. To do so, we monitored visitation and scavenging by dingoes using remote cameras positioned on 119 kangaroo carcasses in open and closed canopy habitats and in warm and cool seasons. The carcasses were monitored across multiple study sites, which incorporated forest, alpine and desert ecoregions in Australia. We found that season played an important role in shaping carcass utilisation by dingoes, as well as carcass persistence. Warmer seasons increased the rate of carcass discovery 6.3-fold in the Forest study site and 4.8-fold in the Alpine study site, and also increased the time dingoes spent feeding on carcasses in the Alpine study site. Further, across all study sites, carcasses persisted at least 4.7 times longer in cool compared with warm seasons. On the other hand, carcass utilisation by dingoes was not influenced by habitat, although carcasses were more likely to persist in open compared with closed canopy habitats in the Alpine study site. Finally, our study showed that dingo scavenging may contribute to substantial carcass removal in certain contexts. Indeed, decreased carcass persistence in the Forest study site was evident in the cool season, when dingo scavenging occurred during the first two weeks of monitoring. The variability in results highlights the complexity of patterns in dingo scavenging and, more broadly, of vertebrate scavenging. It emphasises the need to consider multiple abiotic and biotic factors to properly understand the functional roles of different scavenger species. Longer-term studies with additional seasonal replicates may also yield a more detailed picture of the role of dingoes as apex scavengers.

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