Vertebrate scavenger guild composition and utilization of carrion in an East Asian temperate forest

Akino Inagaki, Maximilian L. Allen, Tetsuya Maruyama, Koji Yamazaki, Kahoko Tochigi, Tomoko Naganuma, Shinsuke Koike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scavenging is a common feeding behavior by many species that plays an important role in ecosystem stability and function while also providing ecosystem services. Despite its importance, facultative scavenging on large animal carcasses has generally been overlooked in Asian temperate forest ecosystems. The aim of this study was to determine the composition and feeding behavior of the facultative scavenger guild as it relates to sika deer (Cervus nippon) carcasses in Japanese forests. There are no obligate scavengers or large predators that kill adult ungulates, but humans fill the role of large predators by culling deer for population management. We documented nine vertebrate species scavenging on deer carcasses and found that mammals were more frequent scavengers than birds and also fed for longer durations. This result suggests that there is a facultative scavenger guild composed mainly of mammals in our forest ecosystem and that carcass utilization by birds was restricted to only forest species. Raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and Asian black bears (Ursus thibetanus) were the most frequent scavenger species and also fed for longer durations than other scavengers. There were significant seasonal differences in scavenging by Asian black bear, Japanese marten (Martes melampus), and mountain hawk-eagle (Nisaetus nipalensis), suggesting the availability of other food resources may alter facultative scavenging by each species. Our results support that scavenging is widespread in this system and likely has important functions including building links in the food web.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1223-1232
Number of pages10
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Cervus nippon
  • carcass
  • facultative scavenging
  • feeding behavior
  • scavengers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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