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Competitive interactions between felid species may limit the southern distribution of bobcats Lynx rufus

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Bobcats are opportunistic felids occurring in a diverse range of habitats and with a widespread distribution from southern Canada to southern Mexico. To explore why the bobcat's distribution stops at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, we modelled the ecological niches, projected as potential distributions, of the felid community (bobcat Lynx rufus, puma Puma concolor, jaguar Panthera onca, margay Leopardus wiedii, jaguarundi Herpailurus yagouaroundi, and ocelot Leopardus pardalis) in southern Mexico, using occurrence data, environmental maps, the computer algorithm GARP, and a GIS platform. The resulting geographical projection of the ecological niche of bobcats extends south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, suggesting that ecological conditions exist for the establishment of populations. The overlap of the modelled distribution of the bobcat was large with that of the puma (97%), but low with that of the ocelot (44%), margay (46%), jaguar (49%), and jaguarundi (52%), the latter three having relatively similar size and feeding habits to bobcats. Moreover, an independent analysis computing a geographic co-occurrence index showed a similar trend of geographic avoidance (values <−4.60 showing a statistically significant anti-correlation) between bobcats with the margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, and jaguar, but not with the puma (values >0.15), while all felids, except bobcats, showed a geographic co-occurrence in southern Mexico (values ranging from −1.91 to 4.71). The Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a lowland region with subtropical habitat, is unlikely to serve as a geographic and ecological barrier to bobcats. As mammal inventories have been conducted for over a century in this region with no records of bobcats, it is unlikely that bobcats are present but have just not been seen. Fossil records also provide no support for the presence of bobcats in that region in the past. Thus, competitive interactions with other felid species appear important in limiting the southern distribution of bobcats, preventing dispersal to a suitable but geographically reduced area south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2008

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