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Open AccessArticle

Feeding Specialization of Honey Badgers in the Sahara Desert: A Trial of Life in a Hard Environment

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Harmusch, Association for the Study and Conservation of Wildlife. C/ San Antón 15, 1º. E 13580 Almodóvar del Campo, Ciudad Real, Spain
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Departamento de Zoología, Universidad de Granada, Avda. de Fuente Nueva, s/n, 18071 Granada, Spain
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Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics Group, Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Avda. Americo Vespucio 26, 41092 Seville, Spain
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Escet, Departamento de Biología y Geología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, C/Tulipán, s/n, E 28933 Madrid, Spain
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Mohammed V University in Rabat, Institut scientifique, Laboratoire de Géo-Biodiversité et Patrimoine Naturel, Centre de Recherche GEOPAC, Av. Ibn Battota, B.P. 703, 10090, Agdal, Rabat, Morocco
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2020, 12(2), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12020059
Received: 19 December 2019 / Revised: 30 January 2020 / Accepted: 1 February 2020 / Published: 2 February 2020
: The honey badger (Mellivora capensis) is a medium-sized carnivore distributed throughout Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Turkmenistan, and India. However, available information on its ecology is very scarce. We studied its feeding ecology in the remote north-western Sahara Desert, based on the contents of 125 fecal samples collected during large scale surveys. Samples were confirmed to belong to honey badgers by camera trapping and genetic analyses. Barely 18 prey species were detected. The diet primarily consisted of spiny-tailed lizards Uromastyx nigriventris and U. dispar (72% of volume in scats). Secondary prey items were arthropods (14%), small mammals (8%), other reptiles (4%), and eggs (0.8%). Some small geographic and temporal differences were related to the consumption of beetle larvae and rodents as alternative prey. Camera trapping and distance sampling surveys showed that diel activities did not overlap between honey badgers and spiny-tailed lizards, suggesting that badgers primarily dig lizards out of their burrows when inactive. Consumption of spiny lizards by other sympatric meso-carnivores was < 6.1% of occurrence (223 analyzed scats); the honey badger behaved as a trophic specialist in the Sahara, probably thanks to exclusive anatomical adaptations for digging. We discuss the role of this circumstance minimizing the exploitative competition, which could allow the survival of this large mustelid in this low productive and highly competitive environment.
Keywords: arid environments; exploitative competence; specialist; feeding ecology; Mellivora capensis; Sahara; Uromastyx genus. arid environments; exploitative competence; specialist; feeding ecology; Mellivora capensis; Sahara; Uromastyx genus.
MDPI and ACS Style

Gil-Sánchez, J.M.; Herrera-Sánchez, F.J.; Rodríguez-Siles, J.; Sáez, J.M.; Díaz-Portero, M.Á.; Arredondo, Á.; Álvarez, B.; Cancio, I.; Lucas, J.; Castillo, S.; McCain, E.; Pérez, J.; Valenzuela, G.; Valderrama, J.M.; Bautista, J.; Sarabia, C.; Leonard, J.; Sánchez-Cerdá, M.; Virgós, E.; Qninba, A. Feeding Specialization of Honey Badgers in the Sahara Desert: A Trial of Life in a Hard Environment. Diversity 2020, 12, 59.

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