Competitive Asymmetries in the Use of Supplementary Food by the Endangered Iberian Lynx <italic>(Lynx pardinus)</italic>
As a conservation tool, supplementary feeding programs may be directed to specific individuals or sectors of the target population whose productivity or survival is thought to be limited by food scarcity. However, the use of supplemental food by different sex and age classes has received little attention. We studied individual variation in the access of the endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) to supplementary food.
From 5349 pictures taken with automatic cameras placed in 25 feeding stations, we identified 28 individuals whose sex and age were known. All individuals known to live in areas subjected to supplementation regularly visited feeding stations. Food consumption was not proportional to expected variations in energy demand within sex and age classes. Food consumption by males was higher than by females, and increased with age, in agreement with a despotic distribution. Food consumption also increased with lynx body mass, and this pattern held for individuals sharing the same breeding territories. The access of inferior competitors increased with the number of feeding stations available within lynx territories.
All lynx exposed to food supplementation made a regular use of extra food but individuals predicted to be competitively dominant visited stations more frequently than subordinates of the same breeding territory. Our results suggest that insufficient provision of supplementary food could restrict the access of juveniles, or even adult females, to feeding stations. Limited consumption by these target individuals may compromise the efficiency of the supplementary feeding programme at the population level, in endangered species that, as the Iberian lynx, exhibit marked sexual dimorphism in body size.
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