Predators scats and micromammals identification

Analyzing the content of predators scats can be tricky, especially when they feed on micromammals. Micromammals include small rodents, insectivores, elephant shrews and bats. Black-backed jackals, caracals (and even leopards) hunt micromammals and those can make up a large proportion of mesopredators diets, especially on protected areas where no sheep are available.

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The content of a leopard scat is being sorted out at the lab.

The technique of the cross-section of hairs and analysis under the microscope is not always the best for micromammals identification because the reference libraries are not complete for those species. That’s why Marine Drouilly met with Dr. Margaret Avery, Emeritus Associate for the Cenozoic Studies at the Iziko Museums.

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Dr. Margaret Avery and Marine Drouilly at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town. Dr. Avery is showing Marine what features she is looking at on a micromammal jaw to identify the species.

Dr. Avery has the amazing skill of being able to identify micromammal species by looking at their teeth and jaws! Yes, you are reading well, she looks at the remains of jaws and teeth found in predators scats and manages to say what species of micromammals are present in the scat and how many of them were eaten (minimum number). She used the species list of Anysberg Nature Reserve to narrow down the species she could find in the Karoo predators scats.

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Dr. Avery showing a tooth and what to look at to identify what species it belongs to.

So far, Dr. Avery helped identifying 56 samples containing micromammal jaws/teeth from black-backed jackal scats from Anysberg Nature Reserve and Karoo farmlands. She is now busy with samples from caracal and leopard scats.

The Karoo Predator Project would like to say a big thank you to Dr. Margaret Avery for her precious help and to share her knowledge of micromammals with us.

 

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