Alpine fauna: food ecology




The guild of carnivores in the European Alps is diverse and comprises reptiles (e.g. adder (Vipera berus)), birds (e.g. eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)), and mammals. Mammalian carnivores include small prey predators (Weasel, Stoat, Fox) as well as large prey predators (Wolf, Lynx, Bear). Carnivores of the European Alps are not especially restricted to an alpine range. They normally have wide ranges and occur in lower altitudes as often as in alpine zones. Wolf and bear would also normally occur in lower altitudes, but have been driven from the lowlands by human activity.

Among the small mammal predators we can differentiate two types of hunting. While the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has a wide variety of prey and hunts only above ground, the weasel (Mustela nivalis) is specialised for hunting its prey in burrows.


1 - Their anatomy allows weasels to hunt small mammals in their burrows


semian wolf 2a   manedwolf 2b

In tropical mountains the reptile carnivores as well as the small mammal carnivores are missing. Instead in the Ethiopian Highlands and in the Andes we can find a wolf-like predator (E: Semian fox, A: Meaned wolf), specialising in small mammals and a high diversity of raptors.


2a and b - Semian fox (Canis simensis)(left) and maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)(right) specialis in small mammal hunting. Photo right: Agency SUTTER (103K and 127K)



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29 August 2011
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