An ecological tale of two scavengers | 10/21/2015 | Staff
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Two species of vulture—the turkey vulture and the black vulture—are able to coexist because their respective traits reduce the need for them to compete for nutritional resources, according to a study by University of Georgia researchers.

In North America, humans frequently see vultures on the side of the road and view them as wild scavengers. This vantage point doesn't attribute the species with value. Yet, in other parts of the world like Asia –where population declines in vultures have given rise to diseases like rabies, the value of their role as scavengers in an ecosystem is quite clear. Vultures serve as garbage disposals, eliminating rotting flesh and reducing the spread of diseases.

Team - UGA - Researchers - Vulture - Vulture—which

A team of UGA researchers investigated how the turkey vulture and the black vulture—which have similar outward appearances—are able to coexist in a geographic region based on unique physical traits, skills and behavioral characteristics.

The team was led by Mike Byrne, a postdoctoral researcher at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory at the time of the study. Rabbit and pig carcasses were placed as bait in open canopy and forested habitats. Byrne used an advanced GPS tracking system with high-resolution capability and remote cameras to examine the birds' foraging behavior and movement patterns.

Results - Differences - Competition - Species - Vultures

"Our results reveal how their physical and behavioral differences interact to reduce direct foraging competition between the species," he said. "In particular, turkey vultures appear to use their superior sense of smell to locate smaller carcasses, as...
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