Competition and Coexistence

In nature, competition for food and resources can be tough; especially in Nevada where prime habitats can be more limited. So how do carnivores like mountain lions (Puma concolor) and bobcats (Lynx rufus) coexist with one another?

Researchers have found that interference by larger cats, mountain lions in this example, can have an impact on the diet and habitat use of smaller cats, like the bobcat. Mountain lions have even been know to predate upon bobcats from time to time. Knowing this, how do bobcats avoid conflicts with their larger competition?

In ecology, researchers often use the terms spatial or temporal niches. What are these and how do they apply to mountain lions and bobcats? In order to avoid conflict with mountain lions, bobcats may occupy a separate spatial niche — habitats where the lions aren’t present. Or they may occupy different a temporal niche, in other words, they may be more active at different times of the day.

One study suggested that bobcats showed more active in grassland and scrub habitats, whereas mountain lions were more active in dense woodlands. What type of niche do you think this would be?

Denise Peterson

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