InterMUC PROJECT

Insight into inter- and intra-specific interactions among wild felid species in Europe and Africa

 

 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

InterMuc is a basic research project funded by the Slovenian Research Agency and led by the Carnivore Ecology Lab at University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry (Slovenia). The project focuses on interactions among wild felids in Europe and Africa, but also includes research on other aspects of felid ecology in other parts of the world.

Scientific background

We aim to address the very core of the field of ecology: the interactions among organisms. Apex predators, such as leopards, cheetahs, and lynx, are known to perform vital roles in the functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems. However, interactions within and among these predator species are still far from completely understood.

Wild felids (commonly known as cats) are widespread through a large gradient of habitats and often several species share the same habitat, which leads to frequent interactions among them. Although their body size varies more than 250-fold, their basic body shape remains remarkably consistent throughout this size gradient. Felids exhibit large diversity of behavioural traits (e.g. in sociality and foraging). These characteristics make them suitable to test hypotheses about the influence of various factors on inter-specific interactions (i.e. interactions among individuals of different species) and intra-specific interactions (i.e. interactions among individuals of the same species).

Project aims

In this research project, we will strive to improve our understanding of inter-specific and intra-specific interactions among felids, as well as to gain novel insights into several other aspects of their ecology.

The main project objectives include:

– Study patterns of avoidance and attraction among the selected species of cats in space and time.

– Obtain novel insights into indirect communication among cats.

– Improve our understanding how intra- and inter-specific interactions affect prey consumption.

To achieve these, we will capture and equip several individuals of different felid species with GPS-collars. This will enable us to closely track their movements and help us understand which individuals avoid each other and which are attracted to each other and why. At the same time, GPS data will enable us to find locations that they use for scent-marking and locations where they kill their prey. On these sites, we will deploy automatic video cameras to study how they communicate amongst each other and how often they share or steal food from each other (i.e. prey remains of killed ungulates). The new data collected with the help of this project will be combined with datasets available from other projects and modern analytical approaches will be used to test a series of hypotheses that will improve our knowledge of the ecology of these charismatic species.

Team members

Dr. Miha Krofel

Dr. Miha Krofel

Assistant professor, project leader

University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry

Ruben Portas

Ruben Portas

Researcher

University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research

Urša Fležar

Urša Fležar

Researcher

University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry

Teresa Oliveira

Teresa Oliveira

Researcher

University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry

Lan Hočevar

Lan Hočevar

Researcher

University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry 

Janez Tarman

Janez Tarman

Field technician

External collaborator

Rok Černe

Rok Černe

Wildlife manager

Slovenia Forest Service

Dr. Pavel Kvapil

Dr. Pavel Kvapil

Veterinarian

Ljubljana ZOO

Dr. Bettina Wachter

Dr. Bettina Wachter

Senior researcher

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research

Dr. Joerg Melzheimer

Dr. Joerg Melzheimer

Senior researcher

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research

PROJECT

PARTNERS

FUNDING 

Project is financed by the Slovenian Research Agency through the European Research Council (ERC) Complementary Scheme, grant number: N1-0163