Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Native mammals lack resilience to invasive generalist predator.

Abstract

Invasive predators have caused catastrophic declines in native wildlife across the globe. Though research has focused on the initial establishment, rapid growth, and spread of invasive predators, our understanding of prey resilience to established invasive predators remains limited. As a direct result of invasive Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus), medium- to large-bodied native mammals decreased drastically across much of southern Florida as early as 2003. By 2014, most of these mammal species were exceedingly rare within the core invasion area, while pythons expanded outward to newly invaded areas. We used python observations to delineate the core python invasion area from the more recently invaded invasion front, and we compared changes in mammal occurrence from 2014 to 2019 between these two areas. We surveyed mammal communities using camera traps and scat surveys and used these observations to quantify the changes in occurrence among mammal species. As expected, occurrence of medium- and large-bodied mammals declined within the invasion front. However, contrary to our expectation, we observed little evidence of resilience among mammals within the invasion core. Of the 15 species detected in 2019, invasive black rats were the only species to increase in occurrence within the invasion core. Additionally, we observed declines in occurrence among native rodents within the invasion core, which were previously thought to be resistant to the effects of pythons. The continued presence of invasive pythons appears to be shifting the diverse mammal communities of southern Florida to one primarily composed of invasive species.