Lethal interactions among vertebrate top predators: a review of concepts, assumptions and terminology

Authors

  • Rui Lourenço,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, LabOr - Laboratory of Ornithology, Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas, Universidade de Évora—Núcleo da Mitra, Évora, Portugal
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  • Vincenzo Penteriani,

    1. Department of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Seville, Spain
    2. Finnish Museum of Natural History, Zoological Museum, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
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  • João E. Rabaça,

    1. Department of Biology, LabOr - Laboratory of Ornithology, Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas, Universidade de Évora—Núcleo da Mitra, Évora, Portugal
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  • Erkki Korpimäki

    1. Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
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ABSTRACT

Lethal interactions among large vertebrate predators have long interested researchers because of ecological and conservation issues. Research focusing on lethal interactions among vertebrate top predators has used several terms with a broad sense, and also introduced new terminology. We analysed the published literature with reference to the main underlying concepts and the use of terminology and its ecological context. The most frequently used terms in the literature were ‘predation’, ‘intraguild predation’, ‘interference competition’, and ‘interspecific killing’. Most studies presented evidence of the killing of the victim (77%), but information regarding its consumption was not given in 48% of cases. More than half of the analysed studies (56%) had no solid information on the degree of competition between interacting species. By reviewing definitions and their underlying assumptions, we demonstrate that lethal interactions among large vertebrate predators could be designated using four terms—‘predation’, ‘intraguild predation’, ‘interspecific competitive killing’, and ‘superpredation’—without the need to employ additional terminology that may increase confusion and misuse. For a correct framework of these lethal interactions it is critical to assess if the kill is consumed, if the victim is indeed a competitor of the killer, and if the prey is a high-order predator. However, these elements of the framework are simultaneously the most common constraints to studies of lethal interactions, since they often require a great effort to obtain. The proper use of terms and concepts is fundamental to understanding the causes behind lethal interactions and, ultimately, what is actually happening in these complex interactions.

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