Rarity of a Top Predator Triggers Continent-wide Collapse of Mammal Prey: Dingoes and Marsupials in Australia

Johnson, Christopher N., Isaac, Joanne I. and Fisher, Diana O. (2007) Rarity of a Top Predator Triggers Continent-wide Collapse of Mammal Prey: Dingoes and Marsupials in Australia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 274 1608: 341-346. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3711


Author Johnson, Christopher N.
Isaac, Joanne I.
Fisher, Diana O.
Title Rarity of a Top Predator Triggers Continent-wide Collapse of Mammal Prey: Dingoes and Marsupials in Australia
Journal name Proceedings of the Royal Society B   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0950-1193: 0962-8452: 0080-4649: (Print): 1471-2945 (Online)
Publication date 2007-02-07
Year available 2007
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1098/rspb.2006.3711
Volume 274
Issue 1608
Start page 341
End page 346
Total pages 6
Editor Michael P. Hassell
Place of publication London
Publisher Royal Society Publishers
Language eng
Subject 06 Biological Sciences
Abstract Top predators in terrestrial ecosystems may limit populations of smaller predators that could otherwise become over abundant and cause declines and extinctions of some prey. It is therefore possible that top predators indirectly protect many species of prey from excessive predation. This effect has been demonstrated in some small-scale studies, but it is not known how general or important it is in maintaining prey biodiversity. During the last 150 years, Australia has suffered the world's highest rate of mammal decline and extinction, and most evidence points to introduced mid-sized predators (the red fox and the feral cat) as the cause. Here, we test the idea that the decline of Australia's largest native predator, the dingo, played a role in these extinctions. Dingoes were persecuted from the beginning of European settlement in Australia and have been eliminated or made rare over large parts of the continent. We show a strong positive relationship between the survival of marsupials and the geographical overlap with high-density dingo populations. Our results suggest that the rarity of dingoes was a critical factor which allowed smaller predators to overwhelm marsupial prey, triggering extinction over much of the continent. This is evidence of a crucial role of top predators in maintaining prey biodiversity at large scales in terrestrial ecosystems and suggests that many remaining Australian mammals would benefit from the positive management of dingoes.
Keyword mesopredator release
trophic cascade
extinction
predation
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
Ecology Centre Publications
 
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