Dominic Mayo

Dominic Mayo

The Mad Dog Diet: A Preliminary Study of Free-Roaming Dog Feeding Ecology in Northeastern Madagascar

Authors

Dominic Mayo

Mentor

Assistant Professor, Dr. Kim Valenta

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Free-roaming domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) are a threat to biodiversity worldwide. They prey upon native species, limit resource availability for native predators, and disrupt ecosystem processes. Free-roaming dogs can also spread disease to wildlife and humans, creating public and environmental health risks. Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot with myriad endemic and endangered species, which face threats from a substantial free-roaming dog population. Many studies to date focused on the risks of zoonotic disease transmission from dogs to humans and wildlife. However, literature surrounding the ecological impacts of free-roaming dogs in Madagascar is relatively lacking. This study aimed to establish an initial understanding of the free-roaming dogs’ prey diet in northeastern Madagascar. We opportunistically collected dog fecal samples within Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, Madagascar. We then x-rayed samples for bone fragments, extracted elements of interest, and identified them to taxa. Evidence suggested native or invasive small mammals could be frequented prey items. Results demonstrated that rodents specifically may play a large role in Malagasy free-roaming dog diets. However, we could not rule out the possibility of rodent bones being more likely to survive digestion relative to other prey items. We discuss needs for future research such as DNA sequencing of fecal samples. We also explore the role humans play in enabling and mitigating the ecological effects of Malagasy free-roaming dogs. This baseline for free-roaming dog feeding ecology aids to establish our understanding of their potential threat to Malagasy fauna and is beneficial to future wildlife and domestic dog management programs in Madagascar.

Poster

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Research Pitch

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