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Data from: Revisiting the cost of carnivory in mammals

Cite this dataset

Tucker, Marlee A.; Ord, Terry J.; Rogers, Tracey L. (2016). Data from: Revisiting the cost of carnivory in mammals [Dataset]. Dryad.


Predator-prey relationships play a key role in the evolution and ecology of carnivores. An understanding of predator-prey relationships and how this differs across species and environments provides information on how carnivorous strategies have evolved and how they may change in response to environmental change. We aim to determine how mammals overcame the challenges of living within the marine environment; specifically, how this altered predator-prey body mass relationships relative to terrestrial mammals. Using predator and prey mass data collected from the literature, we applied phylogenetic piecewise regressions to investigate the relationship between predator and prey size across carnivorous mammals (51 terrestrial and 56 marine mammals). We demonstrate that carnivorous mammals have four broad dietary groups: small marine carnivores (<11,000 kg) and small terrestrial carnivores (<11 kg) feed on prey less than 5kg and 2kg, respectively. On average, large marine carnivores (>11,000 kg) feed on prey equal to 0.01% of the carnivore’s body size, compared to 45% or greater in large terrestrial carnivores (>11 kg). We propose that differences in prey availability, and the relative ease of processing large prey in the terrestrial environment and small prey in marine environment, has led to the evolution of these novel foraging behaviours. Our results provide important insights into the selection pressures that may have been faced by early marine mammals and ultimately led to the evolution of a range of feeding strategies and predatory behaviours.

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