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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Apr 22;274(1613):1101-8.

The nested structure of a scavenger community.

Author information

  • 1Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31-120 Kraków, Poland. nuriaselva@poczta.onet.pl

Abstract

Scavenging is a widespread phenomenon in vertebrate communities which has rarely been accounted for, in spite of playing an essential role in food webs by enhancing nutrient recycling and community stability. Most studies on scavenger assemblages have often presented an oversimplified view of carrion foraging. Here, we applied for the first time the concept of nestedness to the study of a species-rich scavenger community in a forest ecosystem (Białowieza Primeval Forest, Poland) following a network approach. By analysing one of the most complete datasets existing up to now in a pristine environment, we have shown that the community of facultative scavengers is not randomly assembled but highly nested. A nested pattern means that species-poor carcasses support a subset of the scavenger assemblage occurring at progressively species-rich carcasses. This result contradicts the conventional view of facultative scavenging as random and opportunistic and supports recent findings in scavenging ecology. It also suggests that factors other than competition play a major role in determining community structure. Nested patterns in scavenger communities appear to be promoted by the high diversity in carrion resources and consumers, the differential predictability of the ungulate carcass types and stressful environmental conditions.

PMID:
17301021
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2124470
Free PMC Article

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