Non-linear relationship between body size of terrestrial carnivores and their trophic niche breadth and overlap

József Lanszki, Miklós Heltai, György Kövér, Andrzej Zalewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Studying food partitioning of mammalian predators is important for understanding trophic structures and interactions between coexisting carnivore species. This is particularly pertinent in the light of expanding ranges of populations of generalist species whose habitat and diet overlap with more specialized species. Here, we tested the resource partitioning hypothesis in terrestrial carnivores, predicting that trophic niche breadth and overlap relate positively to body mass. We used dietary data from 18 terrestrial carnivore taxa in four families (Canidae, Mustelidae, Felidae and Ursidae; body mass 0.1–173.6 kg) in three regions in Central and Eastern Europe, i.e. deciduous forest and forest-steppe region (DFR), temperate deciduous and mixed forest region (MFR) and transitory mixed forest regions (TFR). We ranked carnivores along an axis of trophic niche (breadth and overlap), and analysed the relationship between trophic niche and body mass (or pair-wise difference in body mass). A hierarchical cluster analysis of diet composition divided carnivores into four ecological groups: wild ungulate predators; small-mammal predators; amphibians and small mammal predators and omnivores. The relationship between body mass of predators and both trophic niche breadth and trophic niche overlap were hump-shaped. The trophic niche breadth to body mass ratio was significantly lower in DFR than in TFR and trophic niche overlap was significantly higher in DFR than in MFR and TFR. The predominant food resource is small mammals whose abundance is related to local agricultural and forestry management practices. Modifications of management techniques can affect population dynamics and community composition of carnivore species, especially in the case of small-mammal predators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages11
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Body mass
  • Hump-shaped relationship
  • Predator community
  • Resource partitioning
  • Trophic niche

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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