Seasonal dietary shifts and food resource exploitation by the hog badger (Arctonyx collaris) in a Chinese subtropical forest
Zhou Y., Chen W., Kaneko Y., Newman C., Liao Z., Zhu X., Buesching CD., Xie Z., Macdonald DW.
© 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Spatial and temporal fluctuations in the availability of food resources can affect adaptive foraging strategies substantially, with the potential to promote temporal dietary switching and specialisation among generalist carnivores. To understand this relationship better at the causal level, we examined spatial and temporal variation in diet composition and diversity in the hitherto little-known hog badger (Arctonyx collaris), in comparison to the environmental abundance of principal food resources, in a subtropical forest of central China. Here, hog badgers fed predominantly on earthworms and fruits, complemented with arthropod imagoes and invertebrate larvae, whereas vertebrate prey categories (mammals, birds and reptiles) were consumed infrequently. We observed strong seasonal variation in the consumption of different food categories. Earthworms predominated during spring, fruits in autumn, and earthworms, complemented by arthropods, in summer, with hog badgers apparently hibernating in winter. Fluctuation in dietary preferences between seasons and habitats correlated only partially with environmental food abundance; in autumn, when fruit abundance peaked, and despite a concomitant peak in earthworm abundance, hog badgers exhibited a dietary shift, indicating a preference for fruit, over earthworms. This resulted in autumnal minima in seasonal food niche breadth and evenness values. We conclude that, in this region, hog badgers exhibited a generalist diet but switched between food categories in response to changes in environmental seasonal abundance.