Can threatened species survive where the top predator is absent?

Elsevier Sci Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Biological Conservation, 2009, 142 (1), pp. 43 - 52
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Top predators have been described as highly interactive keystone species. Their decline has been linked to secondary extinctions and their increase has been linked to ecological restoration. Several authors have recently argued that the dingo Canis lupus dingo is another example of a top predator that maintains mesopredators and generalist herbivores at low and stable numbers, thereby increasing biodiversity and productivity. Due to the sensitivity of many Australian species to introduced mesopredators and herbivores, the top predator hypothesis predicts that threatened species will not survive where dingoes are rare or absent. However, several threatened species have survived inside the Dingo Barrier Fence (DBF). We present a new view on the survival of the yellow-footed rock-wallaby Petrogale xanthopus xanthopus and the malleefowl Leipoa ocellata inside the DBF where the dingo is considered very rare, or in areas where the dingo is believed to have been eradicated several decades ago. We found that dingoes co-occurred with both threatened species. Dingoes were present at all wallaby colonies surveyed and occurred throughout their range. The most common predator detected in areas inhabited by the wallabies was in fact the dingo, and we found no significant difference between dingo abundance inside compared to outside the DBF. Malleefowl nests were found to be scent marked by dingoes at the three sites that we surveyed, despite these sites being close to human settlement and sheep farms, and in small and fragmented patches of wilderness. These findings provide further evidence for an association between the presence of dingoes and the survival of threatened species, which is in agreement with the top predator hypothesis.
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