Predation by cats could lead to the extinction of the Mediterranean endemic Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan at a major breeding site

Authors

  • ELSA BONNAUD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Island Ecology and Evolution Research Group (IPNA-CSIC), Astrofísico Francisco Sánchez 3, 38206 La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
    2. IMBE, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology (CNRS7263 & IRD237), Aix-Marseille University, Bâtiment Villemin, Domaine du Petit Arbois, Avenue Philibert – BP 80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 04, France
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  • GERALD BERGER,

    1. IMBE, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology (CNRS7263 & IRD237), Aix-Marseille University, Bâtiment Villemin, Domaine du Petit Arbois, Avenue Philibert – BP 80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 04, France
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  • KAREN BOURGEOIS,

    1. IMBE, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology (CNRS7263 & IRD237), Aix-Marseille University, Bâtiment Villemin, Domaine du Petit Arbois, Avenue Philibert – BP 80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 04, France
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  • JEROME LEGRAND,

    1. IMBE, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology (CNRS7263 & IRD237), Aix-Marseille University, Bâtiment Villemin, Domaine du Petit Arbois, Avenue Philibert – BP 80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 04, France
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  • ERIC VIDAL

    1. IMBE, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology (CNRS7263 & IRD237), Aix-Marseille University, Bâtiment Villemin, Domaine du Petit Arbois, Avenue Philibert – BP 80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 04, France
    2. IMBE, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology, Aix-Marseille University, IRD237, BPA5, 98848 Noumea Cedex, New Caledonia
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  • Present address: Ecology Systematic and Evolution, UMR CNRS 8079, Paris Sud University, Bât. 362, F-91405 ORSAY Cedex-France.

Corresponding author. Email: elsa.bonnaud@u-psud.fr

Abstract

Feral cats are considered to be one of the main harmful invasive species for island species. Adult shearwaters are highly vulnerable to predation by cats. The population of the Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan, a species endemic to the Mediterranean, is predicted to decline, leaving only a few large breeding colonies, due to the invasion of cats. The impact of cats on the Shearwater population of Le Levant Island, one of the major breeding sites for this species, was evaluated by studying cat diet over a 2-year period. The predation rate obtained was then included in a Shearwater demographic model. Cats preyed upon rabbits, rats and Shearwaters, with a peak of predation on Shearwaters immediately upon their arrival at the colony. Cat predation was heavy and responsible for the yearly death of about 810–3241 birds. This could lead to the extinction of the Le Levant colony within the next four decades and perhaps within just a few years. Cat predation on prospecting individuals, a parameter essential to assess the real impact of predation, may not have an immediate effect on the Shearwater breeding population but can accelerate population extinction. Cat predation must be reduced or removed to prevent the extinction of one of the most important breeding sites for this species.

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