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Relationship between moonlight and nightly activity patterns of the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and some of its prey species in Formosa, Northern ArgentinaThe moon can profoundly influence the activity patterns of animals. If predators are more successful under bright moonlight, prey species are likely to respond by shifting their own activity patterns (predator-avoidance hypothesis). However, the assumption that prey will necessarily avoid full-moon nights does not take into account that moonlight also allows prey to more easily detect predators, and to forage more efficiently. Thus, nightly activity patterns could depend on night vision capabilities (visual-acuity hypothesis). To consider the possible influences of moonlight and to distinguish between these hypotheses, we used camera-trapping records of a predator, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), and several of its night-active prey to compare activity patterns under different moonlight conditions. The ocelots' activity patterns were not strongly related to moonlight, but showed a slight tendency for higher activity during brighter nights. Tapeti rabbits (Sylvilagus brasiliensis) and brocket deer (Mazama americana) showed a clear preference for brighter nights. White-eared opossums (Didelphis albiventris) also showed a trend to be less active in new moon light. In contrast, smaller grey four-eyed opossums (Philander opossum) and the poor eye-sight nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) showed similar activity patterns across all moon phases. Since activity patterns of most prey species were not shifted away from the activity of the ocelot, the differences between species are probably linked to their night vision capabilities, and emphasise the need for more information on the visual system of these taxa. Their activity patterns seem to be less strongly linked to avoidance of predation than previously thought, suggesting that foraging and predator detection benefits may play a more important role than usually acknowledged.
Scent-marking investment and motor patterns are affected by the age and sex of wild brown bearsMembers of the Carnivora employ a wide range of postures and patterns to mark their scent onto objects and thereby communicate with conspecifics. Despite much anecdotal evidence on the marking behaviour of ursids, empirical evidence of scent-marking motor patterns displayed by wild populations is lacking. Analysing the time that different age and sex classes spend at scent-marking trees and the behaviours involved at different times of year could provide further insight into the function of marking. We used camera traps stationed at scent-marking trees to investigate scent-marking behaviour by wild brown bears, Ursus arctos. Through image-based data, we found evidence to support the hypothesis that time investment and scent-marking motor patterns are dictated by the age and sex of the bear. Adult males spent more time scent marking and displayed a more complex behavioural sequence of marking than adult females and juveniles. Adult male behaviour at marking trees was consistent throughout the year, indicating a continued benefit of chemical signalling outside of the breeding season. Juvenile bear behaviour at marking trees changed with age. Young dependent cubs were more likely to imitate their mother's behaviour, whereas older dependent cubs were more likely to engage in marking behaviour independently. The marking motor patterns of independent subadults were more simplistic than those of younger dependent cubs, suggesting a change in behaviour with independence. We suggest that these findings further support the hypothesis that scent-marking behaviour by brown bears functions in intrasexual competition between adult males. Cub behaviour at marking trees suggests an influence of social learning.