Introduced cats eating a continental fauna: invertebrate consumption by feral cats (Felis catus) in Australia

Woolley, Leigh-Ann, Murphy, Brett P., Geyle, Hayley M., Legge, Sarah M., Palmer, Russell A., Dickman, Chris R., Doherty, Tim S., Edwards, Glenn P., Riley, Joanna, Turpin, Jeff M. and Woinarski, John C. Z. 2020, Introduced cats eating a continental fauna: invertebrate consumption by feral cats (Felis catus) in Australia, Wildlife Research, vol. 47, no. 8, pp. 610-623, doi: 10.1071/WR19197.

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Title Introduced cats eating a continental fauna: invertebrate consumption by feral cats (Felis catus) in Australia
Author(s) Woolley, Leigh-Ann
Murphy, Brett P.
Geyle, Hayley M.ORCID iD for Geyle, Hayley M.
Legge, Sarah M.
Palmer, Russell A.
Dickman, Chris R.
Doherty, Tim S.ORCID iD for Doherty, Tim S.
Edwards, Glenn P.
Riley, Joanna
Turpin, Jeff M.
Woinarski, John C. Z.
Journal name Wildlife Research
Volume number 47
Issue number 8
Start page 610
End page 623
Total pages 14
Publisher CSIRO
Place of publication Clayton, Vic.
Publication date 2020-06-16
ISSN 1035-3712
Keyword(s) Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Environmental Sciences & Ecology
invasive predator
Summary Abstract Context Recent global concern over invertebrate declines has drawn attention to the causes and consequences of this loss of biodiversity. Feral cats, Felis catus, pose a major threat to many vertebrate species in Australia, but their effect on invertebrates has not previously been assessed.
Aims The objectives of our study were to (1) assess the frequency of occurrence (FOO) of invertebrates in feral cat diets across Australia and the environmental and geographic factors associated with this variation, (2) estimate the number of invertebrates consumed by feral cats annually and the spatial variation of this consumption, and (3) interpret the conservation implications of these results.
Methods From 87 Australian cat-diet studies, we modelled the factors associated with variation in invertebrate FOO in feral cat-diet samples. We used these modelled relationships to predict the number of invertebrates consumed by feral cats in largely natural and highly modified environments.
Key results In largely natural environments, the mean invertebrate FOO in feral cat dietary samples was 39% (95% CI: 31–43.5%), with Orthoptera being the most frequently recorded order, at 30.3% (95% CI: 21.2–38.3%). The highest invertebrate FOO occurred in lower-rainfall areas with a lower mean annual temperature, and in areas of greater tree cover. Mean annual invertebrate consumption by feral cats in largely natural environments was estimated to be 769 million individuals (95% CI: 422–1763 million) and in modified environments (with mean FOO of 27.8%) 317 million invertebrates year−1, giving a total estimate of 1086 million invertebrates year−1 consumed by feral cats across the continent.
Conclusions The number of invertebrates consumed by feral cats in Australia is greater than estimates for vertebrate taxa, although the biomass (and, hence, importance for cat diet) of invertebrates taken would be appreciably less. The impact of predation by cats on invertebrates is difficult to assess because of the lack of invertebrate population and distribution estimates, but cats may pose a threat to some large-bodied narrowly restricted invertebrate species.
Implications Further empirical studies of local and continental invertebrate diversity, distribution and population trends are required to adequately contextualise the conservation threat posed by feral cats to invertebrates across Australia.
Language eng
DOI 10.1071/WR19197
Indigenous content off
Field of Research 05 Environmental Sciences
06 Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
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