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Feral felines avoid top dogs

By Pat, 16 November 2012 News

Three dingoes.

Dingoes are the largest predatory mammals in the Australian bush.
Image: CSIRO

Dogs chase cats – it’s one of the facts of life. However, what seems to be true in the backyard might not be the case in the Australian bush.

Dingoes are wild dogs that have lived in Australia for several thousand years, while cats are much more recent. Since their introduction, feral cats have caused significant damage to the Australian environment. Cats have only lived in Australia for a few hundred years so many native species haven’t adapted strategies to avoid cats. This makes the native species easy prey.

Both feral cats and dingoes are predators, however, dingoes are larger than cats. This means the dingoes can eat prey, such as wallabies, that are too big for cats. Because of this, dingoes are considered to be apex predators, while cats are not. Apex predators sit at the top of the food chain.

Apex predators can control the numbers not just of prey species, but other predators. This can be because they kill or eat other predators, or because they out compete lesser predators for prey. In Australia, there is evidence that higher number of dingoes leads to a reduction in the number of feral cats.

Researchers recently set up cameras to monitor feral cat and dingo behaviour in the Taunton National Park in Queensland. They found that cats and dingoes were often active in the same areas. In other words, it didn’t appear as if the cats were put off by the presence of dingoes in an area.

One theory is that the presence of dense vegetation means that the smaller cats can hide from the dingoes. This is supported by another study from Cape York in northern Queensland which found that more complex habitats allowed feral cats to coexist with dingoes.

While dingoes restrict the access of feral cats to prey, these studies show that the relationship between the two predators is more complex than the dogs simply chasing away the cats.

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1 comments

  1. That’s crazy! Part of me wishes the Dingo would get rid of the feral cats due to how detrimental they are to the environment, but none the less it is very interesting that they hunt in the same areas!

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