Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 47:45–49; 2015


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Competition for resources is one of the most important selective factors influencing the expression of life history traits in both plants and animals (Darwin 1859). In grasslands, competition for resources such as nutrients, water, and space often is constrained by stochastic processes (Axelrod 1985). Disturbance factors such as fire, grazing by large herbivores, and fluctuating climatic conditions tend to alter the structure and magnitude of competition for limited resources among grassland communities more frequently than in other ecosystems (Snaydon 1987, van der Maarel 1993). Vertebrate carrion is one important resource used by both plants and animals in grasslands, providing a rich but ephemeral point source of nutrients (Towne 2000, Barton et al. 2013). A complex ecological network of vertebrate and invertebrate necrophilous animal species compete intensely for these carrion resources, often aided by specialized sensory and motility adaptations that aid resource discovery and sequestration (Putman 1978, Scott et al. 1979, DeVault et al. 2003).