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Home range, activity and sociality of a top predator, the dingo: a test of the Resource Dispersion Hypothesis


T. M. Newsome, Inst. of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. TMN also at: Invasive Animal Co-operative Research Centre, Univ. of Canberra, Bruce, ACT 2617, Australia. E-mail:


The idea that groups of individuals may develop around resource patches led to the formulation of the Resource Dispersion Hypothesis (RDH). We tested the predictions of the RDH, within a quasi-experimental framework, using Australia’s largest terrestrial predator, the dingo Canis lupus dingo. Average dingo group sizes were higher in areas with abundant focal food sources around two mine sites compared with those in more distant areas. This supports the notion that resource richness favours larger group size, consistent with the RDH. Irrespective of season or sex, average home range estimates and daily activity for dingoes around the mine sites were significantly less than for dingoes that lived well away. Assuming that a territory is the defended part of the home range and that territory size is correlated with home range size, consistent with the RDH, the spatial dispersion of food patches therefore determined territory size for dingoes in our study. However, although sample size was small, some dingoes that accessed the supplementary food resource at the mines also spent a large proportion of their time away, suggesting a breakdown of territorial defence around the focal food resource. This, in combination with the large variation in home range size among dingoes that accessed the same supplementary food resource, limits the predictive capabilities of the RDH for this species. We hypothesize that constraints on exclusive home range occupancy will arise if a surfeit of food resources (in excess of requirements for homeostasis) is available in a small area, and that this will have further effects on access to mates and social structure. We present a conceptual model of facultative territorial defence where focal resources are available to demonstrate our findings.