Iberian Lynx Lynx pardinus Temminck, 1827 (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae)in central Spain: trophic niche of an isolated populaton

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Understanding predator-prey relatonships is fundamental to develop efectve conservaton plans. Between 2015 and 2018, we combed 21 transects, each 7km long, searching for Iberian Lynx Lynx pardinus scat within the province of Madrid in central Spain. In order to minimise inherent subjectvity of visual identfcaton as much as possible, we performed a double specifc nested polymerase chain reacton (PCR) followed by a primer extension assay addressed to two Iberian Lynx diagnostc single nucleotde polymorphisms. Forty-six scat samples were positvely identfed as belonging to Iberian Lynx through genetc analysis. From these, we extracted remains of consumed prey, which we determined to the lowest possible taxonomic level, mainly through hair identfcaton. Identfed prey was divided into four types: lagomorphs, small mammals, birds, and ungulates. The species’ diet compositon was described based on the frequency of occurrence (FO) of each prey and niche breadth, and also compared with prior knowledge of the species using four prior studies as a comparatve reference through the calculaton of the niche overlap value. The FO of lagomorphs (39%) was the lowest, while the FO of small mammals (54%) was the highest recorded to date. The niche breath (0.36) was higher than recorded in prior studies, but stll showing the specialist character of the Iberian Lynx. Niche overlap was low (C = 0.49), showing diferences in trophic niche between the populaton in our study area and the one studied in southern Spain. This indicates that the Iberian Lynx is adept at switching its main prey, an ability that has previously been frmly rejected. It is, however, capable of adaptng to alternatve prey more ofen than recorded to date, which could be a behavioural response to the patchy distributon of European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus in the study area.
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