Spatial co-occurrence and temporal activity patterns of sympatric mesocarnivores guild in Qinling Mountains
Mesocarnivores play important roles in shaping the ecosystems they inhabit, but are often overlooked in comparison to larger-bodied apex predators. Sympatric mesocarnivore species can minimise interspecific competition by spatial avoidance or by altering temporal activity to reduce encounter rates. Here, we used camera traps to investigate the spatial and temporal co-occurrence of mesocarnivores in the Qinling Mountains of China. We obtained 1312 independent detections of target mesocarnivore species with an effort of 93,606 camera-trap days from April 2014 to October 2017. Our results showed that: (1) the relative activity indices (RAI) differed among mesocarnivores species, with the RAI of hog badger being significantly higher than that of other species; (2) the probability of occupancy varied among species, with yellow-throated marten (ᴪ = 0.338) having the highest occupancy estimates; overall, occupancy by yellow-throated marten correlated positively with vegetation type (β = 0.31 ± 0.13); (3) Asiatic golden cat, Siberian weasel and ferret badger tended to segregate themselves spatially, while spatial overlap indices of any two given pairs of leopard cat, masked palm civet, hog badger and yellow-throated marten were relatively high; (4) leopard cat was nocturnal and crepuscular, while masked palm civet and ferret badger were primarily nocturnal, and yellow-throated marten was diurnal and crepuscular. Hog badger had no clear daily pattern; (5) all species except the yellow-throated marten showed moderate to high temporal overlap. Our results show that spatial and temporal segregation of mesocarnivores may serve as the mechanism to reduce competition and facilitate coexistence.