Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The influence of evolutionary history and body size on partitioning of habitat resources by mammalian herbivores in south-eastern Australia

Naomi E. Davis A C , Ian R. Gordon B and Graeme Coulson A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.

B Statistical Consulting Centre, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: ndavis@unimelb.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology - https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO16075
Submitted: 24 October 2016  Accepted: 27 November 2017   Published online: 15 January 2018

Abstract

Habitat use is the most common dimension along which sympatric species partition resources to reduce competition. We conducted faecal pellet counts at Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria, to examine habitat use by an assemblage of mammalian herbivores with disparate evolutionary histories and varying body size: introduced European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and hog deer (Axis porcinus), and native eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) and common wombat (Vombatus ursinus). Overlap in habitat use was low between four pairs of species, suggesting spatial partitioning of resources to reduce the potential for interspecific competition. More generally, however, overlap in habitat use was high, particularly between native and introduced grazers. These results indicate the potential for competition if resources were limiting and suggest that assemblages of species with independent evolutionary histories have inherently less resource partitioning to facilitate coexistence than assemblages of species with common evolutionary histories. Despite evidence of high overlap in habitat use between native and introduced species at a broad scale, and variation in the competitive ability of species, coexistence was likely facilitated by niche complementarity, including temporal and fine-scale partitioning of spatial resources. There was no relationship between body size and the diversity of habitats used. In contemporary assemblages of native and introduced species, evolutionary history is likely to have a strong influence on resource partitioning.

Additional keywords: common wombat, eastern grey kangaroo, European rabbit, hog deer, swamp wallaby.


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