Felids are apex predators that initiate top-down control and are often considered keystone species in their native habitats. Often preying upon the most vulnerable of individuals (e.g., young, old, or ill), felids promote robust prey populations that exhibit decreased vulnerability to disease and prevent overgrazing by large herbivores. For example, evidence suggests that white-tailed deer in Bear Island, Florida avoid forest habitat based on the presence or absence of Florida panthers. However, bobcats, which typically prey upon small mammals, opportunistically prey on deer in open habitat. Thus, in their attempt to avoid one felid predator, white-tailed deer have become increasingly vulnerable to another.
Domestic and wild felids are vulnerable to a large number of endoparasites including flatworms (Platyhelminthes), roundworms (Nematoda), thorny-headed worms (Acanthocephala), tongue worms (Pentastomida), and parasitic protozoa (Apicomplexa). Common felid ectoparasites consist of ticks and mites (Acari), sucking lice (Phthiraptera), fleas (Siphonaptera), mosquitoes (Culicidae), and flies (Diptera).
Ecosystem Impact: keystone species
- Maehr, D., M. Orlando, J. Cox. 2005. Large carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores in South Florida: an evolutionary approach to conserving landscape and biodiversity. Pp. 293-313 in J Ray, K Redford, R Steneck, J Berger, eds. Large Carnivores and the Conservation of Biodiversity. Washington D. C.: Island Press.
- Millan, J., F. Ruiz-Fons, F. Marquez, M. Viota, J. Lopez-Bao, M. Martin-Mateo. 2007. Ectoparasites of the endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) and sympatric wild and domestic carnivores in Spain. Medical and Veterinary Entomology, 21: 248-254.
- Patton, S., A. Rabinowitz. 1994. Parasites of wild Felidae in Thailand: a coprological survey. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 30/3: 472-475.
- Patton, S., A. Rabinowitz, S. Randolph, S. Johnson. 1986. A coprological survey of parasites of wold neotropical felidae. The Journal of Parasitology, 72/4: 517-520.
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