Seasonal and predator-prey effects on circadian activity of free-ranging mammals revealed by camera traps

Abstract

Endogenous circadian and seasonal activity patterns are adapted to facilitate effective utilisation of environmental resources. Activity patterns are shaped by physiological constraints, evolutionary history, circadian and seasonal changes and may be influenced by other factors, including ecological competition and interspecific interactions. Remote sensing camera traps allow the collection of species presence data throughout the 24-hour period, and for almost indefinite periods. Here, we collate data from ten separate camera trap surveys in order to describe circadian and seasonal activity patterns of ten mammal species, and, in particular, to evaluate interspecific (dis)associations of five predator-prey pairs. We recorded 8,761 independent detections throughout Northern Ireland. Badgers, foxes, pine martens and wood mice were nocturnal; European and Irish hares and European rabbits were crepuscular; fallow deer and grey and red squirrels were diurnal. All species exhibited significant seasonal variation in activity relative to the timing of sunrise/sunset. Foxes in particular, were more crepuscular from spring to autumn and hares more diurnal. Lagged regression analyses of predator-prey activity patterns between foxes and prey (hares, rabbits and wood mice), and pine marten and prey (squirrel and wood mice) revealed significant annual and seasonal cross-correlations. We found synchronised activity patterns between foxes and hares, rabbits and wood mice and pine marten and wood mice, and asynchrony between squirrels and pine martens. Here, we provide fundamental ecological data on endemic, invasive, pest and commercially valuable species in Ireland, as well as those of conservation importance and those that could harbour diseases of economic and/or zoonotic relevance. Our data will be valuable in informing the development of appropriate species-specific methodologies and processes and associated policies.

Publication
PeerJ (2018)
Date

Cite as: Caravaggi A, Gatta M, Vallely M, Hogg K, Freeman M, Fadaei E, Dick JTA, Montgomery WI, Reid N, Tosh DG. 2018. Seasonal and predator-prey effects on circadian activity of free-ranging mammals revealed by camera traps. PeerJ 6:e5827 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5827

Data and code for our analyses are available here: http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1420397