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Tassie Devil Decline Allows Feral Cats to Flourish

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The decline of the Tasmanian devil has serious repercussions for the State’s ecosystem, according to research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (https://goo.gl/KSRuXz).

As a top carnivore on the island, the Tasmanian devil plays a very important role in structuring ecosystems, particularly through scavenging. “The severe disease-induced decline of the devil presents a unique opportunity to study how scavenging by devils structures a carnivore community,” said lead author Calum Cunningham, a PhD candidate at The University of Tasmania.

With devil numbers in decline due to the scourge of devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), invasive feral cats are rising in numbers and influence. Not only are feral cats harmful to native wildlife, carrion that would have been gobbled up by the devils is also beginning to accumulate.

Cunningham’s group placed pademelon carcasses in both DFTD-free areas and in areas where DFTD has reduced the devil population. They found that devils consumed significantly fewer carcasses in areas with DFTD, and this increased the food supply for smaller scavengers such as feral cats, forest ravens and spotted-tailed quolls.

Although these smaller carnivores increased their feeding on carcasses, they were much less effective at removing carcasses than...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.