Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cat diet in Macaronesia (Atlantic Ocean)

A dozen of papers describing the diet of feral cats on most of Macaronesian islands (Cape Verde, Canary Island and Madeira), Atlantic Ocean.
Although exotic mammals represent an important proportion of their  diet, native species suffer a strong impact from cat's predation.


Medina F. M., Oliveira P., Menezes D., Teixeira S., García R. & Nogales M. 2010. Trophic habits of feral cats in the high mountain shrublands of the Macaronesian islands (NW Africa, Atlantic Ocean). Acta Theriologica 55: 241–250.
Feral cats Felis catus Linnaeus, 1758 have contributed to the extinction of numerous native species on islands, which are clearly sources of global biodiversity. We studied the diet of this introduced predator in the Madeira and Cape Verde archipelagos, which harbour important colonies of endangered sea birds in the high mountain habitats, and compared the results with those obtained in the same habitat in the Canary Islands, Macaronesian archipelago. On Madeira, 461 prey were iden ti fied from 143 scat groups. Mammals, over all mice, constituted the basic diet appearing in 95% of cat scats. On Fogo (Cape Verde), 657 prey items were obtained from 145 scats, and mammals were also the most important prey, reaching a frequency of occurrence of 88%. Although introduced mammals were the main prey category on all Macaronesian islands, we observed variation in feral cat diet among these is lands. Birds were more frequently consumed on Madeira, lizards on Tenerife (Canaries) and invertebrates on Fogo. No specific differences were observed in relation to La Palma.We suggest that the diet composition on these islands varies according to the respective availability of the different prey types.

Canary Islands

2 Nogales, M., A. Martín, G. Delgado & K. Emmerson. 1988. Food spectrum of the feral cat (Felis catus L., 1758) in the juniper woodland on El Hierro (Canary Islands). Bonner Zoologische Beiträge 39: 1-6.
The diet of feral cats inhabiting a juniper woodland on the island of El Hierro (Canary Islands) has been studied by analyzing 248 scats. A total of 1029 prey items have been identified indicating that the introduced mammals (Oryctolagus cuniculus, Mus sp. and Rattus sp.) constitute the basis of the diet appearing in 88.3 % of the samples and representing 85.4 % of the consumed biomass. Mus sp. is the most frequently captured prey but in terms of biomass. Mus sp. is the most frequently captured prey but in terms of biomass, Oryctolagus cuniculus is the fundamental bais of the diet as has similarly been found in other areas studied. Birds can be regarded as alternative prey resources of some importance though they only account for 8 % of the biomass with Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), contributing practically half this value. Reptiles appear in 44.3 % of the scats but only represent 5.9 % of the biomass, Gallotia galloti caesaris being the most frequently captured species (64.1 %). Insects, (mainly Orthoptera & Coleoptera), despite their high frequency of apparition (45.5 % of scat groups), are insignificant due to their small size, though worthy of note is the large number of larvas of Pimelia laevigata.
Le régime alimentaire du chat haret (Felis catus) est étudié à partir de 221 groupes d'excréments (environ 600 excréments) collectés dans le Parc National du Teide (Ténérife), apportant ainsi des données sur les proies capturées, leur fréquence d'apparition dans les groupes d'excréments et leur biomase. De l'étude de ce matériel on dégage que le régime se compose surtout d'Oryctolagus cuniculus, qui représente une biomasse de 64,4% et une fréquence d'apparition de 53,8%, et de reptiles (Principalement de Gallotia galloti, lézard endémiques des iles Canaries occidentales) avec 74,2%, une fréquence d'apparition en groupes de 74,2% et une biomasse de 20,6%.

In this paper we present preliminary data concerning the food spectrum on the feral cat in the Teide National Park on Tenerife. After having analysed 221 scats, 523 prey items have been identified. Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are the fundamental base of the diet (frecuency of apparition 53,8% and biomass 65,4%) as has been similarly found in other areas studied. Also, reptiles (principally Gallotia galloti, an endemic lizard on the Western Canary Islands) was frequently captured, appearing in 74,2% of the scats groups and representing 20,6% of the total biomass.

Nogales, M., J.L. Rodríguez, G. Delgado, V. Quilis & O. Trujillo. 1992. The diet of feral cats (Felis catus) on Alegranza Island (North of Lanzarote, Canary Islands). Folia Zoologica 4: 209-212.
The diet of feral cats on Alegranza has been studied by analyzing 110 scats. A total of 199 prey items have been identified indicating that introduced mammals (Oryctolagus cuniculus and Mus sp.) constitute the basis of the diet appearing in 100 of the samples and representing 99,5% of the consumed biomass, Fortunately, it appears that breeding seabirds are not represented in their diet. However the species constitutes a potential threat to the birds if its present prey declines in number.

In this study we present a review on the diet of the feral cat on the Canary archipelago, providing the first data from the reliet laurel forest (Garajonay National Park). Among the 403 prey items identified in this habitat, rats were most numerous followed by reptiles. A total of 1.047 scat groups has been studied in the lat eight years from the main habitats of the Canaries. Most of the 2.963 prey items identified represent introduced mammals (rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus; mouse, Muscf. musculus and rat, Rattus sp.). These prey were commonly captured in most habitats with the exception of high mountain scrub. In this habitat, reptiles were taken instead introduced mammals. They were also more commonly included in the diet from open ground and open forest than from the denser forest. Birds were more frecuently consumed in the forest than in open areas. Anthropods appeared in significant proportions in the scats from habitats where these items reached high numbers. The results indicate that the diet of feral cats clearly varies according to the different habitats.

Medina, F.M., R. García & M. Nogales, 2006. Feeding ecology of feral cats on a heterogeneous subtropical oceanic island (La Palma, Canarian Archipelago). Acta Theriologica 51: 75−83.
We found a total of 987 prey in the 500 scats of feral cats Felis silvestris catus Linnaeus, 1758 analyzed in the present study. Introduced mammals (rabbits, rats and mice) constituted the most important prey both in percentage and biomass. Reptiles were the second most important prey, being more frequent than birds and inver te brates. Mammals were the most frequently eaten group in all five main habitats of the island, being more frequent than the remainder of prey in the laurel forest. Rabbits appeared more often in the temperate forest, rats in the laurel forest and mice in the high mountain. Birds were more frequently captured in the three higher habitats (laurel and pine forest, and high mountain) than in the two lower ones (xerophytic shrub and temperate forest). Reptiles were preyed on less in the laurel forest than in the other main habitats. Morisita index indicates a high trophic overlap among the different habitats with the exception of the laurel forest which shows important differences from the other habitats. Levin’s niche-breadth was broader in the xerophytic shrub and narrower in the temperate forest, reaching in ter mediate levels in the other three main habitats. The results obtained in the present study evidence a general pattern in the trophic ecology among similar habitats in the different subtropical Canarian islands. However, some important differences exist that could be a function of the differential prey availability and composition in each ecosys tem.

Medina, F.M. & R. García. 2007. Predation of insects by feral cats (Felis silvestris catus L., 1758) on an oceanic island (La Palma, Canary Islands). Journal of Insect Conservation 11: 203-207.
Predation of insects by feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) on a heterogeneous oceanic island (La Palma, Canary Islands) was studied. A total of 127 invertebrates were identified in the analysis of 500 scats (100 from each habitat of the Island). Invertebrates appear in 18.00% of the scats, representing an insignificant percentage of the total consumed biomass by feral cats on La Palma Island (0.05%). Insects were the most common invertebrate prey both in percentage of occurrence (90.6%) and invertebrate biomass (93.53%), with a total of 115 prey items. Orthoptera, Lepidoptera and Coleoptera were the main prey groups. Among the five main habitats present in La Palma Island, the temperate forest shows the lowest consumption of invertebrates, although insect consumption did not show statistical differences. However Orthoptera and Lepidoptera were more frequently preyed on in the pine forest and in the xerophytic shrub, respectively. Moreover, applying the Simplified Morisita index, a different insect composition of the diet was observed among habitats. Although, none of insects predated by feral cats are threatened, the identification of invertebrate component of the feral cats’ diet is an important tool for the correct understanding of predation significance and to prevent damage to endangered insect species.

Medina, F.M. & M. Nogales. 2009. A review on the impacts of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) in the Canary Islands: implications for the conservation of its endangered fauna. Biodiversity and Conservation 18: 829-846.
Feral cats have been directly responsible for the extinction of numerous species on islands worldwide, including endemic species of mammals, birds and reptiles. The diet of feral cats in the main habitats of the Canary Islands, as generally occurred on oceanic islands, is mainly composed of introduced mammals, and native species of birds, reptiles and insects. The impact of feral cat upon the endangered species was assessed by evaluating their relative abundance in the cats’ diet and by considering their current conservation status. A total of 68 different preys were identified at species level in all studies carried out in the Canary Islands (5 mammals, 16 birds, 15 reptiles and 32 invertebrates). From all the species preyed by feral cats in the Canary Islands, only four of them are considered threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: one endemic bird Saxicola dacotiae and three endemic giant lizards, Gallotia simonyi, Gallotia intermedia, and Gallotia gomerana. Although some efforts on management control have been carried out, it is necessary to enforce these conservation activities on those areas of Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro where giant lizards are still present. Furthermore some local areas where endangered bird species are highly predated should be protected. Nevertheless, it is important to take into account the presence of other introduced species such as rats, mice or rabbits in order to avoid problems derived from the hyperpredation process and mesopredator release effect.

Nogales, M. & F.M. Medina. 2009. Trophic ecology of feral cats (Felis silvestris f. catus) in the main environments of an oceanic archipelago (Canary Islands): An updated approach. Mammalian Biology 74: 169-181. 
The diet of feral cats in the main habitats of the Canary Islands is composed of introduced mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. However, introduced mammals constitute the main source of biomass consumed, followed in importance by reptiles and birds. PCA analysis of biomass revealed the ordination of three different groups, corresponding to the diet in the laurel forest (La Gomera), thermophilous forest (El Hierro) and one large group that include the rest of habitat types. A similar pattern was observed when these habitats were analyzed in a single island (La Palma). Oryctolagus cuniculus was an important prey in practically all habitats, while Rattus rattus was frequently captured in the laurel forest, Mus musculus domesticus in the open shrubs (both xeric and high mountain), reptiles (mainly lizards genus Gallotia) in the open habitats of Tenerife, birds play a relative role in forest habitats, and large invertabrates (basically Orthoptera and Coleoptera) in the three forest habitats and in the xerophytic shrub of Fuerteventura. Morisita’s index of similarity of diet showed maximum differences between the forest habitats (pine and thermophilous vs. laurel forest), indicating an important heterogeneity in the diet of feral cats in these environments. Shrub habitats showed smaller values of Levin’s niche breadth than those from the forest habitats, showing a broader diet in the latter. Lastly, the diet of feral cats on the Canary Islands follows the general pattern of other islands located at similar latitude and mainly composed by rabbits and mice. However, specific preys such as lizards, rats or birds, play an important role in particular habitats in which they are abundant.

10 Medina, F.M. & M. Nogales. 2007. Habitat use of feral cats in the main environments of an Atlantic Island (La Palma, Canary Islands). Folia Zooliga 56(3): 277–283
In this study we assess the habitat use of feral cats in the five main habitats represented on La Palma Island in the Canary Islands. We determined habitat use by the presence of faeces. Faeces persistence time was significantly different between habitats, being clearly lower in the laurel forest (the wettest) than in the other habitats. This humid environment promotes the high presence of invertebrate decomposers such as Isopoda and Diplopoda. Once the effect of differential persistence times for faeces among the different habitats was controlled for, data obtained indicated that feral cats showed no differences in the use of the five main habitats present on La Palma Island. Although cats selected closed habitats more frequently than open ones, because they prefer cover for hunting, no statistical differences were found in the island habitats studied.

11 Medina, F. M., M. López-Darias & M. Nogales. 2008. Food habits of feral cats (Felis sylvestris f. catus, L. 1758) in insular semiarid environments (Fuerteventura, Canary Islands). Wildlife Research 35: 162-169.
In this study, we present the first data on diet and impacts of feral cats on a semiarid island (Fuerteventura, Canary Islands). A total of 614 prey was identified in the 209 scats analysed. Introduced mammals, specially rabbits and mice, were the most consumed vertebrate prey and constituted more than 90% of biomass. Barbary ground squirrels, Algerian hedgehogs, and rats were preyed upon less even though they were abundant on the island. Invertebrates, mainly Orthoptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera and Odonata, were the second most important prey items (in terms of actual numbers) but they contributed only minimally with respect to biomass (<1.1%). The presence of terrestrial molluscs in the diet was interesting because they are a rare prey in an insular context. Birds and reptiles occurred at a low frequency. A total of 677 seeds was counted, mainly belonging to Lycium intricatum (Solanaceae) and two unidentified plant species. Levin’s niche breadth was narrow due to the high consumption of mammals. Morisita’s index showed a similar trophic overlap in diet with respect to the other xeric habitats of the Canarian archipelago. Considering that more than 90% of biomass corresponded to introduced mammals, we conclude that feral cats are not having a large direct impact on the native prey species.

Cabo Verde
12 Medina, F. M., P. Oliveira, P. Geraldes, J. Melo & N. Barros. 2012. Diet of feral cats Felis catus L., 1758 on Santa Luzia, Cape Verde Islands. Zoologia Caboverdiana 3 (2): 67-73.
The diet of feral cats Felis catus on Santa Luzia, Cape Verde Islands, was studied. A total of 147 prey items were identified during the analysis of 26 scat groups collected during the summer of 2010. House mouse Mus musculus was the most important prey, both in percentage of biomass and number of preys consumed (89.7% and n= 117, respectively). Reptiles were the second most important prey, represented by one skink species (Chioninia stangeri) and an unidentified gecko species. The remainder of the identified prey consisted of one bird species (Passer iagoensis) and one undetermined Tettigoniidae species (Insecta). No endangered species were identified in scats of this introduced predator, but future surveys must be carried out to further avoid threats to the island’s biodiversity. 

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