Lara Naves‐Alegre, Esther Sebastián‐González, José Antonio Sánchez‐Zapata

Behavioral interactions are modulated by facilitation along a heterotrophic succession

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

AbstractCompetition and facilitation drive ecological succession but are often hard to quantify. In this sense, behavioral data may be a key tool to analyze interaction networks, providing insights into temporal trends in facilitation and competition processes within animal heterotrophic succession. Here, we perform the first in‐depth analysis of the factors driving temporal dynamics of carcass consumption by analyzing behavioral patterns (i.e., interactions) and community dynamics metrics (i.e., species richness, abundance, turnover, and diversity) in a Neotropical scavenger guild. For this purpose, we monitored goat carcasses using automatic cameras. From 573 reviewed videos, we registered 1784 intraspecific and 624 interspecific interactions, using intraspecific and interspecific aggressions (n = 2048) as a behavioral proxy of competition intensity. Our results show that resource availability shapes behavioral interactions between vultures, with a specific effect of the different species on behavioral and competition dynamics, showing the existence of a hierarchy between species. Furthermore, behavioral processes linked to carcass opening tended to be facilitative, related to moments of higher tolerance (i.e., lower aggressiveness), thus reducing competition intensity and also affecting community structure and dynamics. This novel framework demonstrates complex ephemeral successional processes characterized by a fluctuation in facilitation and competition intensity during the consumption of an unpredictable resource linked to key ecosystem processes.

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