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Dhole pack size variation: Assessing effect of Prey availability and Apex predator
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  • Aishwarya Bhandari,
  • Pallavi Ghaskadbi,
  • Parag Nigam,
  • Bilal Habib
Aishwarya Bhandari
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Pallavi Ghaskadbi
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Parag Nigam
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Bilal Habib
Wildlife Institute of India
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Ecosystems wherein social and solitary predators share space, complex asymmetric intraguild interactions actively shape the group size of social carnivores. Intense intraguild predation has been known to result in reduced group size and low recruitment rates in subordinate social carnivores. In South and South-east Asia, Dhole, tiger and leopard form a widely distributed sympatric guild of large carnivores. In this paper we attempted to understand the pack size dynamics of a subordinate social predator, the dhole, by investigating factors underlying pack size variation at two neighbouring sites. We further evaluated our local-scale patterns of pack size variation at a larger scale by doing a distribution-wide assessment of pack size across dhole ranging countries. Across study sites, we found an inverse relationship between the local abundance of a top predator and group size of a subordinate predator while accounting for variability in resources and habitat heterogeneity. Tiger density was low (0.71/100 Km2) at the site having large dhole packs (16.8 ± 3.1) whereas, a relatively smaller average dhole pack size (6.4 ± 1.3) was observed in a higher tiger density (5.67/100 Km2) area. Our results on distribution-wide assessment are concurrent with local-scale results, showing a positive association between prey abundance and pack size and a negative association between tiger densities and dhole pack size. Our study takes us one step closer to trying to answer the age-old question of what drives the pack size of social predators in a multi-predator system. Linking behaviour to population dynamics and carnivore interactions is another highlight of the study. Often helpful while optimizing conservation triage and formulation of management implications like recovery and translocations.

Peer review status:IN REVISION

20 Jul 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
21 Jul 2020Assigned to Editor
21 Jul 2020Submission Checks Completed
23 Jul 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
11 Aug 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
12 Aug 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor