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Dingo diet in a modified landscape

Duncan, Tenaya Aisha (2020) Dingo diet in a modified landscape. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Linear clearings such as roads, tracks and seismic lines are often the only anthropogenic disturbances present in remote landscapes. In many situations, predators have demonstrated a preference for such clearings, the use of which may increase their mobility, change their habitat use, and alter predator-prey interactions. In Australia, dingoes (Canis familiaris) use linear features and clearings available in the landscape. We quantified the diet of dingo in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia, and tested the hypothesis that broadscale clearing of seismic lines would result in a change to the diet of dingoes, specifically an increase in consumption of native species, resulting from an increase in their foraging range across the study area. A total of 215 scats, collected from bores and track junctions, were analysed using morphometric analysis (including identification of hair, scales, feathers). Scats were collected from locations inside and outside an area subject to clearing of seismic lines, before and after the disturbance took place, allowing a before/after, control/treatment (BACI) survey design, which allowed us to account for seasonal changes in diet with time. A total of 13 mammal and 7 bird prey species were recorded in the scats; reptiles were not identified to a species level and were grouped, therefore the number of reptile species in the diet of the dingo is unknown. The most frequently consumed species where cattle (Bos indicus frequency of occurrence [FOO] = 74.4%) and agile wallabies (Notomacropus agilis FOO = 34.0%). The clearing of seismic lines significantly changed the composition of the dingo diet in the West Kimberley (p = 0.003), with agile wallaby FOO significantly increasing after clearing and cattle FOO decreasing. There was also a significant treatment x time interaction for diet diversity, with more diversity after disturbance (p = 0.007). This can be the result of the creation of linear clearings increasing access to new areas, independent of water sources. No conservation significant species were identified in dingo diet in the study, providing no indication that creation of linear features increases the frequency of predation by dingoes. Future infrastructure developments should consider the effect of habitat modification on generalist predators, such as the dingo, especially in areas inhabited by threatened prey species.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Supervisor(s): Fleming, Trish and Dawson, Stuart
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