Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 22263.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022263

Previous Articles     Next Articles

Seasonal variation of daily activity rhythm of leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) and their potential prey in Neixiang Baotianman National Nature Reserve of Henan Province, China

Xueqin Deng1, Tong Liu2, Tianshi Liu3, Kai Xu1,4, Song Yao2, Xiaoqun Huang1, Zhishu Xiao1,4,*()   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    2. Neixiang Management Bureau of Baotianman National Nature Reserve, Neixiang, Henan 474350
    3. College of Life Sciences, Hebei University, Baoding, Hebei 071002
    4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
  • Received:2022-05-13 Accepted:2022-09-20 Online:2022-09-20 Published:2022-09-28
  • Contact: Zhishu Xiao


Aim: The daily activity rhythm of wild animals is an adaptive response to food availability, predation risk, and environmental constraints. Therefore, elucidating the driving factors of daily activity rhythms are crucial in understanding wildlife fitness and conservation. Knowledge about the daily activity rhythms of most wild animals is rudimentary and occasionally inaccurate due to limited sampling and anthropogenic environmental changes. Leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis)—formerly believed to be nocturnal—are found to have some diurnal activity, along with their primary crepuscular activity. This illustrates the necessity of investigating how daily activity rhythm in wild animals, such as leopard cats, changes over time and space.
Methods: During 2016, we deployed 55 infrared-triggered cameras to monitor leopard cats and their potential prey in the Neixiang Baotianman National Nature Reserve, Henan Province. We compared daily activity patterns by employing a kernel density estimation and using overlap coefficient to quantify the temporal overlap between leopards cat and their potential prey across warm and cold seasons.
Results: We identified 1,343 independent images of leopard cats and their potential prey over 14,972 camera trapping days. We found leopard cats, Tolai hares (Lepus tolai), and nocturnal rats mainly active at night, with the leopard cat’s activity peaking at dusk and dawn. Conversely, Pallas’s squirrels (Callosciurus erythraeus), Pere David’s rock squirrels (Sciurotamias davidianus), golden pheasants (Chrysolophus pictus) and koklass pheasants (Pucrasia macrolopha) were all diurnal. More diurnal activity of leopard cats and their potential prey (except nocturnal rats) occurred during warm seasons. Overlap analysis showed that leopard cats had a higher overlap coefficient with Tolai hares and nocturnal rats across warm and cold seasons (Δ ≥ 0.50) than with any diurnal prey (Δ ≤ 0.40).
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that daily activity rhythm for leopard cats and their potential prey may be relatively conserved, but with some seasonal plasticity. This plasticity may be caused by seasonal variation in environment and prey distribution. Our results indicate that broad-scale monitoring and research are essential to elucidate the causes and seasonal variations in daily activity rhythms of wild animals.

Key words: leopard cat, predator-prey interactions, daily activity rhythm, seasonal variation, camera trapping technology