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Dietary niche breadth and overlap of four sympatric southern African myrmecophagous mammal species, as inferred from the literature

Darren W Pietersen
Mark P Robertson


Five myrmecophagous mammal species occur sympatrically over large parts of southern Africa. Of these, the diets of four species have been studied in sufficient detail to facilitate interspecific comparisons. The diets of the aardvark Orycteropus afer, aardwolf Proteles cristatus, bat-eared fox Otocyon megalotis and Temminck’s pangolin Smutsia temminckii were compared based on the overall prey categories utilised and the proportion of each prey category in their diets, while Meller’s mongoose Rhynchogale melleri had too few data to be assessed. Bat-eared fox fed on the greatest number of prey categories (n = 116) and had the greatest dietary niche breadth (4.71), while aardwolf utilised the fewest prey categories (n = 28) and had the lowest dietary niche breadth (1.19) when analysing the proportion of each prey category in the diet at the genus level. Temminck’s pangolin was the only species that was observed to feed exclusively on ants and termites. The diets of Temminck’s pangolin and aardvark showed a moderate degree of overlap (dietary niche breadth 0.49–0.57), but overlap was low between all other species pairs (0.01–0.26) when analysing the proportion of each prey item in the diet at the genus level. The results suggest that these myrmecophages have low to moderate dietary overlap, which combined with the high abundance of ants and termites and differences in their feeding ecologies, likely reduces interspecific competition. 

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eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020