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Predator–prey interactions: jaguar predation on caiman in a floodplain forest

Authors


Correspondence

Fernando C. C. Azevedo, Departamento de Ciências Naturais, Universidade Federal de São João del Rei, Praça Dom Helvécio 74 Bairro Fábricas, São João del Rei, MG 36301-160, Brazil. Tel: +55 3233792483

Email: fazevedo@ufsj.edu.br

Abstract

Advances in the understanding of ecological factors determining predator–prey interactions have provided a strong theoretical background on diet preferences of predators. We examined patterns of jaguar predation on caiman in southern Pantanal, Brazil. We investigated factors affecting predation rates and vulnerability of caiman to predation by jaguars. We recorded 114 caiman mortality incidents. Predation accounted for 62.3% (n = 71) of all caiman found dead, while other causes of mortality (nonpredation) accounted for 37.7% (n = 43). We found that jaguars prey on a broad size range of caiman body and caiman predation was influenced by distance to forests. During dry seasons, 70% (n = 49) of deaths were due to predation, while 30% (n = 21) were due to nonpredation causes. However, we found no significant relationship between annual and monthly killings of caiman and rainfall totals by year and month (r = 0.130, r = −0.316). The annual flooding regime may be a more important factor influencing prey selection by jaguars. Although neotropical crocodilians are relatively well studied, their interactions with jaguars have been mostly ignored and should be prioritized in future studies.

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