Seasonal and predator-prey effects on circadian activity of free-ranging mammals revealed by camera traps

Anthony Caravaggi, Maria Gatta, Marie-Claire Vallely, Kayleigh Hogg, Marianne Freeman, Erfan Fadaei, Jaimie T. A. Dick, W. Ian Montgomery, Neil Reid, David G. Tosh

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Endogenous circadian and seasonal activity patterns are adapted to facilitate effective utilisation of environmental resources. Activity patterns are shaped by physiological constraints, evolutionary history, circadian and seasonal changes and may be influenced by other factors, including ecological competition and interspecific interactions. Remote-sensing camera traps allow the collection of species presence data throughout the 24 h period and for almost indefinite lengths of time. Here, we collate data from 10 separate camera trap surveys in order to describe circadian and seasonal activity patterns of 10 mammal species, and, in particular, to evaluate interspecific (dis)associations of five predator-prey pairs. We recorded 8,761 independent detections throughout Northern Ireland. Badgers, foxes, pine martens and wood mice were nocturnal; European and Irish hares and European rabbits were crepuscular; fallow deer and grey and red squirrels were diurnal. All species exhibited significant seasonal variation in activity relative to the timing of sunrise/sunset. Foxes in particular were more crepuscular from spring to autumn and hares more diurnal. Lagged regression analyses of predator-prey activity patterns between foxes and prey (hares, rabbits and wood mice), and pine marten and prey (squirrel and wood mice) revealed significant annual and seasonal cross-correlations. We found synchronised activity patterns between foxes and hares, rabbits and wood mice and pine marten and wood mice, and asynchrony between squirrels and pine martens. Here, we provide fundamental ecological data on endemic, invasive, pest and commercially valuable species in Ireland, as well as those of conservation importance and those that could harbour diseases of economic and/or zoonotic relevance. Our data will be valuable in informing the development of appropriate species-specific methodologies and processes and associated policies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere5827
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2018


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