Kitanka is caught in the act.  You won’t believe what these mammals have gone for

The trophozoites (spores) are an important link in the food chain, enabling the circulation of matter in nature. They act as ecosystem cleaners, helping to remove animal carcasses (and often pathogens) from the landscape. A team of scientists from the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney He decided to investigate how different seasons affect the use of carrion in Kosciuszko National Park in the Australian Alps.

In a work published in Wildlife research We read:

We found that carrion is seasonal in terms of who uses the carcass during the year. Even more surprisingly, tassels and crows have led these seasonal trends as perches are the most common on record, with tassels most common in winter and crows in spring.

Kitanka sometimes has no choice

fox horsetail (Trichosaurus vulpecula), also called kozo, is a species of opossum-like mammal found throughout Australia and has been introduced to New Zealand. It is a small, herbivorous mammal with a long prehensile tail that is hairless on the side that clings to a branch. Individuals are 35-55 cm long (excluding the tail) and weigh 1.2-4.5 kg. Recent research suggests that these animals may be temporary scavengers.

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We read at work:

We expected different scavengers to appear each season, which is why we kept monitoring throughout the year, from March 2020 to March 2021. In each subsequent season—starting in autumn, then in winter, spring, and summer—we put Alpine Environment 15 fresh kangaroo carcasses. Each was monitored for 60 days to record each species visited, both for study and foraging.

In the 745,599 images captured by camera traps, different types of scavengers have been recorded: dingoes, black croakers, Australian vultures, crows, foxes, feral warthogs and tassels. As much as 88 percent of the recorded scavengers are crows and tassels.

Fox tassel / photo. Wikimedia Commons

The researchers speculated that it would be easier for the animals to track down the carcass in the summer, as the scent spreads more easily in higher temperatures. Indeed, it turned out that in the winter the young animals frequently visited the kangaroo carcasses. What does it come from?

In the summer, the carcass is colonized by numerous carrion insects a few minutes after death. This speeds up the decomposition of the corpse, and the strong odor is not at all good for the litter. Moreover, in the summer the abundance of food is relatively high, so the animals do not have to resort to “leftovers”. Fox tassels in winter accounted for up to 81 percent. Of all carrion visits – three times more than in the summer. The conclusion is obvious: these animals simply have no choice, because it is difficult for them to find plant food.

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Australian scientists describe:

We also took into account that the scavengers’ breeding seasons can influence their behaviour. Crows breed from late winter to early spring and initially give priority to nest building. Even captured by our remote cameras, crows have been seen gathering fur from kangaroo carcasses, presumably to build a nest.

The research carried out allowed the dynamics of carrion to be determined in the Alpine ecosystem, and the models developed can be used to better understand the ecology of scavengers in different parts of the world.

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