Biodiv Sci ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (1): 81-97.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2020359

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Competition and coexistence among terrestrial mammalian carnivores

Zhilin Li1,2, Li’an Duo1,2, Sheng Li3,*(), Tianming Wang4,5,6,*()   

  1. 1 Tianjin Key Laboratory of Animal and Plant Resistance, College of Life Sciences, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387
    2 Tianjin Key Laboratory of Conservation and Utilization of Animal Diversity, College of Life Sciences, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387
    3 School of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    4 Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Engineering, Beijing 100875
    5 National Forestry and Grassland Administration Key Laboratory for Conservation Ecology in the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park, Beijing 100875
    6 College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875
  • Received:2020-09-09 Accepted:2020-12-29 Online:2021-01-20 Published:2021-01-11
  • Contact: Sheng Li,Tianming Wang


Background & Aim: Carnivores play an important role in maintaining the structural and functional stability of ecosystems. Increasing anthropogenic pressure has resulted in dramatic population decline and habitat degradation of carnivores worldwide. Exploring regional coexistence mechanisms of carnivore populations is important to understand how mammal communities assemble, along with protecting and managing endangered species. This review summarizes the interactions of terrestrial carnivores along three dimensions (i.e., spatial, temporal and dietary), of their ecological niches, analyzing the influence of factors such as body size, prey composition, environmental difference, human disturbance and climate change on the coexistence of carnivores based on more than 100 related studies.
Review Results: We put forward the problems to be addressed for current study of carnivore coexistence. This study demonstrates that there is no single theoretical explanation for carnivore coexistence through niche separation. Prey, habitat and human disturbance may mediate the intensity of carnivore interactions and then influence their coexistence directly and indirectly. We also emphasize the critical role of co-adaptation for carnivore coexistence. Carnivore coexistence is a relatively stable state of long-term evolution, which needs to be examined dynamically.
Perspectives: We should correctly understand the differences and connections between niche overlap and coexistence. Besides niche separation, carnivores’ life history, movement and behavior should also be considered to interpret their coexistence.

Key words: carnivores, niche segregation, species coexistence, intraguild predation theory, interspecific relationship