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Use of cenotes and the cave environment by mammals on the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico


Vernes, Karl; Devos, Fred (2022), Use of cenotes and the cave environment by mammals on the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, Dryad, Dataset,


Mammals are important sources of nutrients to cave ecosystems, and in some circumstances, caves may be an essential resource for mammals. Few studies, however, have focused on the use of caves by terrestrial mammals. We used camera traps at 17 cenotes on the Yucatán Peninsula to determine patterns of use by mammals. Eighteen non-volant mammal taxa were identified using cenotes, the most commonly occurring being lowland paca (Agouti paca), opossums (Didelphis spp.), white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), tayra, (Eira barbara) and gray four-eyed opossum (Philander opossum); collectively these taxa accounted for 76% of all mammal records. We also recorded several felids using cenotes, including jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor). Activity patterns at cenotes usually matched normal activity schedules but some species were nocturnal in the forest but diurnal at cenotes. Mammals mostly accessed cenotes to drink, but a range of activities were recorded including foraging, nesting, mating, resting and bathing.


We had four study sites at 17. At each cenote, cameras (ScoutGuard SG-680V; infra-red flash; programmed to take 1-min long videos when triggered, at high sensitivity and with no ‘quiet time’ between triggers) were positioned in order to best capture visitations by mammals; this typically involved placing one or more cameras at (1) the entrance(s) to the cenote, (2) along sections of dry cave leading to water and (3) at the point where the dry cave ends and the aquifer begins. Cameras were focused on locations most likely to permit animals to easily access water. The number of cameras placed within each cenote was influenced by the complexity of the site in terms of the width of the entrance, number of entrances and the breadth of the dry cave-water interface. Photos were sorted by species at each camera location and processed using the ‘CameraSweet’ camera trapping analysis software. We considered independent events to be those where 30 or more min had elapsed between successive photos of the same species at the same camera.

Usage Notes

These data only show independent records, and the location of animals in terms of which cenote they appeared at has not been included. The dataset therefore would be useful to examine activity patterns in the forests around cenotes ('Jungle) or within cenotes ('Cenote'), and to examine activity patterns of mammals within the forests of the Yucatán Peninsula. Mammals codes should be easily interpreted based on the list of mammals seen during the study. 


Robine Enid Wilson Small Grant Scheme