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Non-invasive genetic sampling reveals diet shifts, but little difference in endoparasite richness and faecal glucocorticoids, in Belizean felids inside and outside protected areas

  • J. Bernardo Mesa-Cruz (a1) (a2), Janine L. Brown (a2), Lisette P. Waits (a3) and Marcella J. Kelly (a1)

Many Neotropical felids are threatened with extinction due to direct effects of habitat destruction and/or human persecution. However, indirect and synergistic effects of human-felid conflict remain under-studied and potentially include increased stress and diet shifts that may negatively impact felid health. We hypothesized that faecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGM) and endoparasite species richness (ESR) would be higher, and diet would shift, for felids outside protected areas where conflict occurs. In north-western Belize, a scat-detector dog located 336 faecal samples, identified to species and individual using DNA analyses. DNA amplification success was substantially higher within protected areas than outside. We detected jaguar, puma, ocelot, jaguarundi and domestic cat. FGMs were higher in puma and jaguarundi than in other felids, while ESR was similar across felids with domestic cats exhibiting the highest number of genera. Diet partitioning occurred among felids, but domestic cats may compete with ocelot and jaguarundi for small prey. Outside of protected areas, large cats shifted their diet to smaller prey and livestock remains were not found. Contrary to our hypotheses, FGM and ESR did not differ inside versus outside protected areas, but sample sizes were low in human-modified areas. We provide a baseline on wild felid adrenal activity, endoparasites and diet and suggest improvements to increase sample sizes outside protected areas. Our research provides a template for expanding non-invasive sampling approaches more widely across the range of Neotropical felids.


Muchas de las especies de félidos neotropicales están amenazadas con extinción debido a efectos directos como destrucción del hábitat y/o persecución por parte de los humanos. Sin embargo, efectos indirectos y sinergísticos del conflicto con humanos permanecen poco estudiados y potencialmente incluyen incremento en estrés y cambios de dieta que pueden impactar negativamente la salud de los félidos. Hipotetisamos que los metabolitos de glucocorticoides fecales (FGM) y la riqueza de especies endoparásitas (ESR) serian mas altas, y cambios en dieta, serian observados en félidos en áreas sin protección donde existe conflicto. En el noroeste de Belice, un perro detector de heces localizo 336 muestras, identificadas con análisis de ADN hasta especie e individuo. El éxito de amplificación de ADN fue sustancialmente mas alto dentro de las áreas protegidas. Detectamos jaguar, puma, ocelote, jaguarundí, y gato domestico. FGMs fueron mas altos en pumas y jaguarundí, mientras que el ESR fue similar en todos los félidos, pero el gato domestico presento números mas altos de endoparásitos. Se observaron dietas particionadas en estos félidos, aunque el gato domestico podría estar compitiendo con ocelotes y jaguarundís por presas de tamaño pequeño. Fuera de las áreas protegidas, los félidos grandes cambiaron su dieta con presas mas pequeñas y remanentes de animales de granja no fueron evidenciados en las heces. En contradicción con nuestra hipótesis, FGM y ESR no fueron diferentes dentro o fuera de áreas protegidas, aunque el tamaño de muestra fue bajo en áreas modificadas por humanos. Ofrecemos parámetros de base en actividad adrenal, endoparásitos y dieta, y sugerimos alternativas para incrementar el tamaño de muestra fuera de las áreas protegidas. Nuestro trabajo provee un marco para expandir el uso de técnicas no invasivas a través del rango de distribución de félidos neotropicales.

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Journal of Tropical Ecology
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