Multiple scavengers respond rapidly to pulsed carrion resources at the land-ocean interface
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Sandy beaches are the globe's longest interface region between the oceans and the continents, forming highly permeable boundaries across which matter flows readily. Stranded marine carrion supplies a high-quality food source to scavengers, but the role of animal carcasses is generally under-reported in sandy-beach food webs. We examined the response of scavengers to pulsed subsidies in the form of experimental additions of fish carcasses to the dune-beach interface in eastern Australia. Ghost crabs (Ocypode spp.) are the dominant invertebrate scavengers in these habitats and they responded strongly and consistently to changed resource availability: densities increased significantly within days of carrion augmentations. Carcasses added experimentally also formed local nuclei for a diversity of vertebrate scavengers that aggregated at food falls; these included large lizards, several species of birds (including raptors), and foxes. Consumption of fish carrion by the vertebrate scavengers was rapid and often complete. There is also evidence for higher-order interactions, where responses of invertebrate scavengers became depressed in plots where vertebrate scavenger activity was intense. Our findings emphasize that carrion can be a pivotal component of beach food webs.
© 2013 Elsevier Masson SAS. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)