The spatial and temporal distribution of food resources can profoundly affect foraging decisions and prey selection, potentially resulting in shifts in diet in response to changes in resource availability. The masked palm civet (Paguma larvata) has long been regarded as a dietary generalist that feeds primarily on fruits and small mammals. Both types of food resources may vary spatially and temporally and the diet of P. larvata is expected to change in response to variation in the availability and distribution of these resources. To address the effects of such variation on foraging by masked palm civets, we studied a population of P. larvata inhabiting a highly heterogeneous habitat in central China consisting of primary forest, selectively logged forest, logged forest, broad-leaved and coniferous forest plantations, and cultivated farmland. Available food resources included wild fruits, cultivated fruits, leaves, plant cortexes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, molluscs, and arthropods. The abundance of these food categories varied significantly among seasons and habitats and civets altered consumption of these categories according to their temporal and spatial availability. The diversity of items consumed also varied significantly among seasons and habitats. From June to October, wild fruits were the main food of civets in forest habitats, whereas cultivated fruits were the main food in farmland. In contrast, from November to May, civets in forested habitats consumed primarily rodents and birds. Concordant with these changes was a shift from foraging in primary forest (November–May) to foraging in logged forest and farmland (June–October) that appeared to be associated with the availability of fruits. These results demonstrate the ability of civets to change their diet, both spatially and temporally, in response to changing food resources. To better understand how foraging behavior of civets varies with resource availability, similar studies should be conducted in tropical environments characterized by year-round availability of fruit.
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