Document Detail

Rarity of a top predator triggers continent-wide collapse of mammal prey: dingoes and marsupials in Australia.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  17164197     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
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.
Christopher N Johnson; Joanne L Isaac; Diana O Fisher
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Comparative Study; Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society     Volume:  274     ISSN:  0962-8452     ISO Abbreviation:  Proc. Biol. Sci.     Publication Date:  2007 Feb 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2006-12-13     Completed Date:  2007-03-26     Revised Date:  2013-06-06    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101245157     Medline TA:  Proc Biol Sci     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  341-6     Citation Subset:  IM    
School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
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MeSH Terms
Extinction, Biological*
Food Chain*
Marsupialia / physiology*
Population Density
Population Dynamics
Regression Analysis
Wolves / physiology*

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