Dogs suppress a pivotal function in the food webs of sandy beaches

Brooke Maslo, Robert Kwait, Christian Crosby, Price Holman, Isabelle Zoccolo, Kathleen Kerwin, Todd Pover, Thomas A. Schlacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Domestic dogs are the most abundant carnivore globally and have demonstrable negative impacts to wildlife; yet, little evidence regarding their functional roles in natural food webs exists. Adding dogs to food webs may result in a net loss (via suppression of naturally occurring species), net gain (via mesopredator release), or no change (via functional replacement) to ecosystem function. Scavenging is a pivotal function in ecosystems, particularly those that are energetically supported by carrion. Dogs also scavenge on animal carcasses, but whether scavenging by dogs influences the structural and functional properties of food webs remains unclear. Here we used camera traps baited with carrion to test the effect of dogs on the composition and diversity of the vertebrate scavenger guild, as well as carrion detection and consumption rates. We conducted this work in sandy beach ecosystems, which rely on the import of marine organic matter (i.e. stranding of dead marine animals). Diversity of the scavenger community was similar on beaches without dogs. Dogs increased the time it took for carcasses to be detected and decreased the proportion of carrion consumed. This ‘dog suppression effect’ on scavenging was stronger for nocturnal mammalian scavengers, presumably being driven by indirect trait-mediated effects, which raises further questions about the broader ecological consequences of domestic dogs in natural systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14069
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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