Functional differences in scavenger communities and the speed of carcass decomposition

Elke Wenting*, Salomé C.Y. Rinzema, Frank van Langevelde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Carcass decomposition largely depends on vertebrate scavengers. However, how behavioral differences between vertebrate scavenger species, the dominance of certain species, and the diversity of the vertebrate scavenger community affect the speed of carcass decomposition is poorly understood. As scavenging is an overlooked trophic interaction, studying the different functional roles of vertebrate species in the scavenging process increases our understanding about the effect of the vertebrate scavenger community on carcass decomposition. We used motion-triggered infrared camera trap footages to profile the behavior and activity of vertebrate scavengers visiting carcasses in Dutch nature areas. We grouped vertebrate scavengers with similar functional roles. We found a clear distinction between occasional scavengers and more specialized scavengers, and we found wild boar (Sus scrofa) to be the dominant scavenger species in our study system. We showed that these groups are functionally different within the scavenger community. We found that overall vertebrate scavenger diversity was positively correlated with carcass decomposition speed. With these findings, our study contributes to the understanding about the different functional roles scavengers can have in ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere8576
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • carcass decomposition
  • scavenger community
  • vertebrate scavengers

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