(ORDO NEWS) — More invasive predators roam the vastness of Australia than anywhere else on Earth, and this has led to an unprecedented extinction of native animal species.
Previously, scientists believed that the presence of dingoes, Australia’s top predators, would help deter red foxes and feral domestic cats. However, now they have doubts.
Since the arrival of Europeans in Australia in 1788, this continent has experienced the largest human-caused extinction of species: 33 species of mammals, nine species of birds and three species of reptiles have already disappeared.
Among the main causes are habitat destruction due to land clearing and grazing, changing wildfire patterns and the emergence of new invasive predator species, the most feared of which are the red fox and the feral domestic cat.
Previously, scientists believed that the presence of the dingo , Australia’s top predator, could be holding back the growth of fox and cat populations, but now a team of local researchers led by Patricia Fleming of the Harry Butler Institute have studied in detail the diet of dingoes, feral cats and red foxes in Australia to establish the true nature their relationship.
Combining data from 157 studies of the diets of these predators (in total – more than 70 years of research and over a hundred thousand samples), scientists analyzed their differences and similarities.
It turned out that the diets of cats and dingoes almost do not overlap: the former prey on birds, reptiles and small mammals, while the latter prefer medium and large mammals. So significant dingo pressure on cats can not be expected.
On the other hand, foxes overlap in diet with both cats and dingoes, but these highly adaptable predators can change diets depending on the degree of competition from larger predators. It turns out that the presence of dingo foxes should not be greatly affected.
Thus, scientists emphasize, the reintroduction of dingoes will not solve the problem of invasive predators in Australia, since all three species can coexist quite peacefully in the same territory, sharing their diets.
It seems that people will have to cope with the predators introduced by humans, which pose a deadly threat to local species, on their own.
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