A Common Rule for the Scaling of Carnivore Density

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Science  22 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5563, pp. 2273-2276
DOI: 10.1126/science.1067994

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Population density in plants and animals is thought to scale with size as a result of mass-related energy requirements. Variation in resources, however, naturally limits population density and may alter expected scaling patterns. We develop and test a general model for variation within and between species in population density across the order Carnivora. We find that 10,000 kilograms of prey supports about 90 kilograms of a given species of carnivore, irrespective of body mass, and that the ratio of carnivore number to prey biomass scales to the reciprocal of carnivore mass. Using mass-specific equations of prey productivity, we show that carnivore number per unit prey productivity scales to carnivore mass near –0.75, and that the scaling rule can predict population density across more than three orders of magnitude. The relationship provides a basis for identifying declining carnivore species that require conservation measures.

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