Abiotic and biotic factors modulate carrion fate and vertebrate scavenging communities Article

Turner, KL, Abernethy, EF, Conner, LM et al. (2017). Abiotic and biotic factors modulate carrion fate and vertebrate scavenging communities . ECOLOGY, 98(9), 2413-2424. 10.1002/ecy.1930

cited authors

  • Turner, KL; Abernethy, EF; Conner, LM; Rhodes, OE; Beasley, JC


  • Carrion is a valuable nutrient resource used by a diversity of vertebrates across the globe. However, vertebrate scavenging ecology remains an understudied area of science, especially in regards to how biotic and abiotic factors influence scavenging community composition. Here we elucidate how fundamental biotic and abiotic factors interact to modulate the efficiency and composition of vertebrate scavengers by investigating scavenging dynamics across a large gradient in carcass sizes and habitat types representative of many temperate ecosystems, as well as between two seasons reflecting differences in invertebrate activity. We found carcass size and season influenced carcass fate and persistence, as well as the richness and composition of vertebrate scavenger communities utilizing carrion resources. Species richness, which increased as carcass size increased and was higher during the cool season, had a significant effect on carcass persistence. In addition, habitat type influenced carcass detection times by vertebrates, and we observed relatively distinct scavenging communities associated with carcasses of differing sizes. This research highlights a pervasive limitation to the interpretation of results of previous studies as research failing to incorporate carcass size and habitat type could result in the over or underrepresentation of vertebrate scavengers in food web dynamics.

publication date

  • September 1, 2017

published in

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 2413

end page

  • 2424


  • 98


  • 9