Competitive co-existence within a large carnivore guild
The fundamental mechanism to understand species co-existence, the ecological niche, suggests that similar species with similar ecological requirements cannot co-exist sustainably for long periods of time due to one species outcompeting the other. This competition is especially apparent in carnivores and in order to reduce the costs of competition, carnivores facilitate co-existence through partitioning along spatial, temporal and dietary axes. This study is the first to simultaneously conduct research on the different ecological niche axes in a large carnivore guild (leopard, spotted hyena and brown hyena), linking spatial, temporal and dietary partitioning to co-existence patterns. Despite intense competition, carnivore densities for all target species were amongst the highest in Southern Africa. In addition, overlap between all carnivore species on all ecological axes was high. I suggest that competition for space within these species explains their co-existence and not the traditional mechanisms of partitioning among the three main dimensions.