Puma space use and dispersal in tropical biodiversity hotspots: bridging a gap to connect individuals to populations

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Bernardo Brandão Niebuhr , Sandra Maria Cintra Cavalcanti, Ermeson A. Vilalba, Vanessa V. Alberico, João Carlos Zecchini Gebin, Danilo da Costa Santos, Ananda de Barros Barban, Raphael de Oliveira, Eliezer Gurarie, Ronaldo Goncalves Morato


Assessing residency and dispersal behavior of apex predators and its consequences for landscape connectivity is of paramount importance for understanding population- and ecosystem- effects of anthropogenic land use change. However, basic information on animal space use is still lacking, particularly in the Tropics. Here we synthesize ranging and dispersal ecological information on pumas (Puma concolor) and present estimates of space use, dispersal, and movement of pumas in an ecotone between biodiversity hotspots in Southeastern Brazil. Using GPS data for 14 GPS-collared pumas and land use data, we assessed when, how long, and how far individuals dispersed; what factors influenced puma home range size; and how movement patterns changed according to land use and proximity to infrastructure, during residency and dispersal. We present the first detailed record on dispersal of pumas in Brazil, including long-distance dispersals, and show that pumas moved faster and less tortuously during dispersal than during residency. Pumas moved slower and had smaller home ranges in landscapes with higher proportion of forest, pointing to the importance of forests as habitat for pumas. In contrast, movement rates were higher in open pastures, mainly during dispersal and nighttime. Our study underscores the scarcity of research on puma space use and dispersal in South America and reveals divergences in dispersal behaviors compared to North America, especially concerning dispersal ages. We call for more comprehensive studies on movement ecology of carnivores combined with long-term population monitoring, to allow linking individual behavior with metapopulation dynamics and landscape connectivity and drawing more effective measures to sustain their populations.




Behavior and Ethology, Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Zoology


habitat fragmentation, movement ecology, home range, Residency, Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, Puma concolor


Published: 2024-01-25 20:53


CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors declare no competing interests.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
The GPS data collected and used in this study is stored on MoveBank (Movebank project ID 577226894 – Pumas from Tiete Project; Movebank project ID 594660300 – Onças do Legado) and access to it might be requested to the first author or through contact with Instituto Pró-Carnívoros. Data from the literature compilation and R code for all analyses performed in this study are available in the Github repository: https://github.com/bniebuhr/puma_dispersal_residency_Brazil (private).