A new study finds that mountain lions in the western United States change their surroundings and as a result are “ecosystem engineers.” A team of scientists tracked 18 lion kills in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming and identified 215 species of beetles living in, on and off the carcasses — that is, the kills provided habitat as well as food for scavengers. The work demonstrates the critical role mountain lions play in providing resources to other species in the ecosystems in which they live. New research suggests that mountain lions in the western United States play an outsize role in changing their surroundings, leading the authors of the study to suggest that the big cats are “ecosystem engineers.” In a study published online Nov. 30 in the journal Oecologia , biologist Mark Elbroch and his colleagues demonstrate that the assortment of animals that profit from the free meals provided by the kills of mountain lions ( Puma concolor ) ranges from birds and mammals to insects and other invertebrates. The researchers found that 113 of the 215 species collected from mountain lion kill sites were carrion-dependent. Image by Josh Barry/Panthera. When the team tracked 18 lion kills in […]

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