Lovari, S., Minder, I., Ferretti, F., Mucci, N., Randi, E., Pellizzi, B. (2013). Common and snow leopards share prey, but not habitats: competition avoidance by large predators. Journal of Zoology, 291, 127–135.
Abstract: Resource exploitation and behavioural interference underlie competition among
carnivores. Competition is reduced by specializing on different prey and/or spatiotemporal
separation, usually leading to different food habits. We predicted that
two closely related species of large cats, the endangered snow leopard and the
near-threatened common leopard, living in sympatry, would coexist through
habitat separation and exploitation of different prey species. In central Himalaya,
we assessed (2006–2010) habitat and diet overlap between these carnivores. The
snow leopard used grassland and shrubland, whereas the common leopard
selected forest. Contrary to our prediction, snow leopard and common leopard
preyed upon similar wild (Himalayan tahr, musk deer) and domestic species (Bos
spp., dogs). Dietary overlap between snow leopard and common leopard was 69%
(yearly), 76% (colder months) and 60% (warmer months). Thus, habitat separation
should be the result of other factors, most likely avoidance of interspecific
aggression. Habitat separation may not always lead to the use of different prey.
Avoidance of interspecific aggression, rather than exploitation of different
resources, could allow the coexistence of potentially competing large predators.
Lovari, S., Ventimiglia, M., Minder, I. (2013). Food habits of two leopard species, competition, climate change and upper treeline: a way to the decrease of an endangered species? Ethology Ecology & Evolution, 25(4), 305–318.
Abstract: For carnivore species, spatial avoidance is one of the evolutionary solutions to
coexist in an area, especially if food habits overlap and body sizes tend to coincide.
We reviewed the diets of two large cats of similar sizes, the endangered snow leopard
(Panthera uncia, 16 studies) and the near-threatened common leopard (Panthera par-
dus, 11 studies), in Asia. These cats share ca 10,000 km2 of their mountainous range,
although snow leopards tend to occur at a significantly higher altitude than common
leopards, the former being a cold-adapted species of open habitats, whereas the latter
is an ecologically flexible one, with a preference for woodland. The spectrum of prey
of common leopards was 2.5 times greater than that of snow leopards, with wild prey
being the staple for both species. Livestock rarely contributed much to the diet. When
the breadth of trophic niches was compared, overlap ranged from 0.83 (weight categories)
to one (main food categories). As these leopard species have approximately
the same size and comparable food habits, one can predict that competition will arise
when they live in sympatry. On mountains, climate change has been elevating the
upper forest limit, where both leopard species occur. This means a habitat increase
for common leopards and a substantial habitat reduction for snow leopards, whose
range is going to be squeezed between the forest and the barren rocky altitudes, with
medium- to long-term undesirable effects on the conservation of this endangered cat