Feeding ecology of the neotropical river otter Lontra longicaudis in an Atlantic Forest stream, south-eastern Brazil



The feeding habits of the neotropical river otter Lontra longicaudis were studied in a headwater stream of the Atlantic Forest, south-eastern Brazil, for 17 months. The otters fed mainly on fish (93% of the scats), but invertebrates were also frequent items in the diet (78.9% of the scats), as observed for the same species in lentic habitats and for other species of Lontra as well. It is suggested that the high proportion of invertebrates in the diet in comparison to Lutra is related to differences in the dentition of the two genera. The observed seasonal variation in the diet of L. longicaudis was probably a result of fluctuations in the abundance of a main prey item, a megalopteran larva (Corydalus sp.). Prey selection, regarded as differences between rates of predation and relative abundance of food items, was demonstrated for the two most important groups of otter prey: fish and crustaceans. Although they are able to capture mobile prey, otters seem to prefer feeding on prey showing lower escape ability – among fish they select armoured catfish, and among crustaceans they select crabs.