Effects of Sun Angle, Lunar Illumination, and Diurnal Temperature on Temporal Movement Rates of Sympatric Ocelots and Bobcats in South Texas

Author(s): John P. Leonard, Michael E. Tewes, Jason V. Lombardi, David W. Wester, and Tyler A. Campbell

Published: April 2020

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Sympatric ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) and bobcats (Lynx rufus) in South Texas show substantial overlap in body size, food habits, and habitat use. Consequently, we explore whether temporal niche partitioning may explain ocelot and bobcat coexistence. We investigated the influence of sun angle, lunar illumination, and maximum diurnal temperature on temporal movement rates of sympatric ocelots (n = 8) and bobcats (n = 6) using a combination of high frequency GPS locations and bi-axial accelerometer data. We demonstrated that accelerometer data could be used to predict movement rates, providing a nearly continuous measure of animal activity and supplementing GPS locations. Ocelots showed a strong nocturnal activity pattern with the highest movement rates at night whereas bobcats showed a crepuscular activity pattern with the highest movement rates occurring around sunrise and sunset. Although bobcat activity levels were lower during the day, bobcat diurnal activity was higher than ocelot diurnal activity. During warmer months, bobcats were more active on nights with high levels of lunar illumination. In contrast, ocelots showed the highest nocturnal activity levels during periods of low lunar illumination. Ocelots showed reduced diurnal activity on hotter days. Our results indicate that ocelot and bobcat coexistence in South Texas can be partially explained by temporal niche partitioning, although both felids showed periods of overlapping activity during nocturnal and crepuscular periods.

Suggested Citation

Leonard, J.P.,  M.E. Tewes, J.V. Lombardi, D.W. Wester, and T.A. Campbell. 2020. Effects of sun angle, lunar illumination, and diurnal temperature on temporal movement
rates of sympatric ocelots and bobcats in South Texas. PLoS ONE 15(4): DOI 10.1371/e0231732. 

Ocelot Conservation