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Biogeographical patterns in the diet of the wildcat, Felis silvestris Schreber, in Eurasia: factors affecting the trophic diversity

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Abstract Aim 

To analyse the biogeographical patterns in the feeding habits and trophic diversity of prey of the wildcat, Felis silvestris Schreber. Location 

The Eurasian distribution range from the Caucasian mountains to the Iberian Peninsula and Scotland. Methods 

We reviewed 15 studies to collate data on feeding behaviour across the current wildcat distribution range. We considered nine prey groups and recorded the latitude, whether the location was within a Mediterranean bioclimate area, and rabbit presence. Prey groups were reduced into four PCA factors. Regression analyses were performed to examine the relationships of latitude with PCA factors and trophic diversity.anovawas used to test if trophic diversity was higher at locations with Mediterranean climates. We also analysed the relationship between small rodent consumption and both Mediterranean climates and rabbit presence usinganova. Finally, we confirmed the relationship between the frequency of Murinae and Microtinae in the diets and the presence of rabbits and with respect to Mediterranean climates controlling for latitude (mancova). Results 

Diet diversity was greatest in Mediterranean climates. Trophic diversity decreased when rodents formed the bulk of the diet, but increased with the inclusion of alternative prey such as rabbits and invertebrates. Small rodent consumption was also negatively related to rabbit consumption or presence. The inclusion of Murinae and Microtinae in the diet varied with latitude, with higher ingestion of the former in the southern locations and of the latter in northern areas. Main conclusions 

The trophic diversity of the wildcat diet was associated with Mediterranean climatic conditions, being broader at more southern latitudes. At the continental scale, the wildcat cannot be considered a rodent specialist because rabbits were preferred when they were present. Thus, we consider the wildcat to be a facultative specialist. In addition, our results indicate that general trophic patterns in the diet of a species may not be accurately determined if the availability of alternative prey is not taken into account.
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Keywords: Biogeographical patterns; Felis silvestris; Mediterranean area; diet; feeding habits; latitudinal gradient; rabbit; rodents; trophic diversity; wildcat

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departamento de Biología Animal y Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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