Resource partitioning among British and Irish mustelids.
1. Seven species of mustelid carnivore live in the British Isles: weasel, stoat, mink, polecat, pine marten, badger and otter. Recent studies have hypothesized that coexistence of these species is facilitated by partitioning of resources according to prey size, particularly that of mammalian prey. This hypothesis has been supported by evidence of character displacement derived from even size ratios in skuIl length and canine diameter.
2. To test whether this hypothesis is supported by empirical data, 98 studies of the diet of mustelids living in Great Britain and Ireland were analysed. Two main predictions were tested; that larger males ate larger prey than females and that larger species ate larger prey than smaller species.
3. Male mustelids ate larger prey than females but there was no relationship between predator size and prey size, either for all species or when largely vermivorous badgers and piscivorous otters were excluded. There was no difference in dietary niche breadth between the sexes. Dietary niche breadth increased with body size in the assemblage excluding otters and badgers. The dietary niches of mustelids were partitioned along several axes, none of which was clearly related to prey size.
_x000D_4. The dietary niches of the five species living in Ireland (stoat, mink, pine marten, otter and badger) were more similar to one another in Ireland than in Great Britain and there was no difference in niche breadth between Irish and British mustelids. There was no evidence of competitive release in the diets of Irish mustelids.
5. Resource partitioning according to prey size is apparent between the sexes within species, and this is probably correlated to sexual selection for size dimorphism. Empirical data do not, however, support a hypothesis of resource partitioning according to prey size between species. Interspecific aggression provides an alternative hypothesis explaining character displacement among mustelids.