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Data from: Age-related variation in the trophic characteristics of a marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii

Citation

Bell, Olivia et al. (2021), Data from: Age-related variation in the trophic characteristics of a marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m905qftz8

Abstract

Age-related changes in diet have implications for competitive interactions and for predator-prey dynamics, affecting individuals and groups at different life stages. To quantify patterns of variation and ontogenetic change in the diets of Tasmanian devils Sarcophilus harrisii, a threatened marsupial carnivore, we analysed variation in the stable isotope composition of whisker tissue samples taken from 91 individual devils from Wilmot, Tasmania from December 2014 to February 2017. Both δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N decreased with increasing age in weaned Tasmanian devils, indicating that as they age devils rely less on small mammals and birds, and more on large herbivores. Devils <12 months old had broader group isotopic niches, as estimated by Bayesian standard ellipses (SEAB mode = 1.042) than devils from 12-23 months old (mode = 0.541) and devils ≥24 months old (mode = 0.532. Devils <24 months old had broader individual isotopic niches (SEAB mode range 0.492-1.083) than devils ≥24 months old (mode range 0.092-0.240). A decrease in δ¹⁵N from the older whisker sections to the more recently grown sections in devils <24 months old likely reflects the period of weaning in this species, as this pattern was not observed in devils ≥24 months old. Our data reveal changes in the isotopic composition of devil whiskers with increasing age, accompanied by a reduction in isotopic variation both among population age classes and within individuals, reflecting the effect of weaning in early life, and a likely shift from an initially diverse diet of small mammals, birds and invertebrates towards increasing consumption of larger herbivores in adulthood.

Methods

Stable isotope analyses of whiskers collected from wild Tasmanian devils Sarcophilus harrisii.

Usage Notes

See ReadMe.txt file

Funding

Natural Environment Research Council

University of Exeter