ArticlePDF Available


The natural history and ecology of Neotropical forest-canids and caecilian amphibians are little documented, both for their natural rarity and secretive habitats. Herein we report the Short-eared Dog Atelocynus microtis predating on the caecilian amphibian Caecilia tentaculata. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first predation event of a canid on a caecilian.
First record of a canid (Atelocynus microtis) predating on a caecilian amphibian
Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia1, Diego Mosquera2
1Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales.
Diego de Robles y Vía Interoceánica, Quito, Ecuador.
2Estación de Biodiversidad Tiputini, Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
Diego de Robles y Vía Interoceánica, Quito, Ecuador.
*Autor principal/Corresponding author, e-mail:
Editado por/Edited by: C. Zambrano, Ph.D.
Recibido/Received: 04/29/2010. Aceptado/Accepted: 09/19/2010.
Publicado en línea/Published on Web: 12/08/2010. Impreso/Printed: 12/08/2010.
The natural history and ecology of Neotropical forest-canids and caecilian amphibians are
little documented, both for their natural rarity and secretive habitats. Herein we report
the Short-eared Dog Atelocynus microtis predating on the caecilian amphibian Caecilia
tentaculata. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first predation event of a canid on a
Keywords. Canidae, Caeciilidae, predation, Amazonia, Ecuador.
La historia natural y ecología de los cánidos de bosques Neotropicales y de los anfibios
apodos han sido poco documentados, en ambos casos debido a su rareza natural y hábitos
reservados. Aquí reportamos un evento de predación por parte del Perro de Orejas Cortas
Atelocynus microtis sobre una Cecilia o Ilulo Caecilia tentaculata. Basados en una amplia
revisión bibliográfica, este parece ser elprimer evento de predación reportado de un cánido
sobre una cecilia.
Palabras Clave. Canidae, Caeciilidae, predación, Amazonia, Ecuador.
Figure 1: Atelocynus microtis carrying a Caecilia tentaculata.
Tiputini Biodiversity Station, 23 April 2007.
TheShort-eared Dog Atelocynus microtis (Sclater, 1883)
is a medium-sized canid found in undisturbed habitats
of western and central Amazonia of Colombia, Ecuador,
Brazil, and Bolivia [1, 2]. Despite its wide distribution,
Atelocynus microtis is one of the rarest carnivores in
the world and has been classified under the IUCN Red
List category of Near Threatened; very little is known
about its natural history [2, 3]. Data on its diet are scant
and most existing information derives from a long-term
study in Cocha-Cashu, Peru [2]. Available data suggest
that Atelocynus microtis is a generalist carnivore, with
an important dietary contribution coming from fishes,
and including insects, small mammals, fruits, amphib-
ians, crabs, birds and reptiles [2, 3, 4] . Caecilians are a
poorly understood group of tropical, limbless worm-like
fossorial amphibians of the order Gymnophiona. Their
predator–prey relationships are inadequately known, with
few reports of predators. Here, we contribute informa-
tion on the diet of Atelocynus and predators of caecilians
by reporting Atelocynus microtis feeding on a caecilian
in Ecuadorian Amazonia.
A photograph of an adult Atelocynus microtis carrying a
caecilian in the mouth was obtained on 23 April 2007 at
06:47 at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (Fig. 1). Tipu-
tini Biodiversity Station—TBS is located ca. 280 km
Avances, 2010, Vol. 2, No.3, Pags. B5-B6
Avances, 2010, Vol. 2, No.3, Pags. B5-B6 Cisneros-Heredia y Mosquera
ESE from Quito, in Amazonian Ecuador (038’17”S,
7609’01”W; 190–270 m elevational range). This re-
search station is managed by Universidad San Francisco
de Quito (USFQ) and preserves a tract of 6.5 km2of
old-growth tropical forest. Primary Lowland Evergreen
Non-flooded forests cover most of TBS, with narrow
areas along the river and streams covered by flooded
forests. A photographic monitoring programme using
camera traps triggered by heat and motion was estab-
lished at TBS in December 2004. The photograph of
Atelocynus with the caecilian was taken by a camera
set along a trail located in a hilly area covered by non-
flooded forest. Identification of the caecilian was based
on its body size and colouration, a combination of fea-
tures that is diagnostic for Caecilia tentaculata (Lin-
naeus, 1758) among all Gymnophiona from Amazonia,
where it is the stouter, longer, and heavier caecilian.
As far as we are aware, this is the first report of Ate-
locynus or any other canid preying on caecilians, and
in fact the first report of Atelocynus feeding on a fosso-
rial, elongate vertebrate. Previously the only amphib-
ians reported as part of its diet have been frogs [2].
Reported predators of caecilians mainly include a va-
riety of snakes ([5, 6]; and citations therein), with occa-
sional records of spiders, ants, turtles, domestic chick-
ens, hawks, free-ranging pigs, and tenrecs preying on
caecilian [7, 8]. Caecilians have granular glands in their
skin that produce toxins, which may help dissuade preda-
tors [9], yet Atelocynus microtis did not seem to be de-
terred by toxins that Caecilia tentaculata might pro-
duce. Caecilia tentaculata inhabits most wet-forested
areas of South America east of the Andes, including the
Amazonian lowlands. The geographic range of Atelo-
cynus microtis completely overlaps that of Caecilia ten-
taculata, and predation events may not be rare. How-
ever, due to the secretive habits of both species, little
information is available on their ecological interactions.
Support for the camera-trapping project was provided
by a National Geographic Society Grant (7602-04), with
ongoing support provided by University of Missouri–St.
Louis, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and Carol
Walton Expeditions, Inc. Research permits were pro-
vided by Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador. We ex-
press our gratitude to C. Barriga de Romo, D. Romo,
Ma. E. Heredia, L. Heredia, and the entire staff of TBS
for their continuous support.
[1] Berta, A. 1986. Atelocynus microtis”. Mammalian
Species. 256, 1–3.
[2] Leite, M. and Williams, R. 2004. “ Short-eared dog Ate-
locynus microtis”. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals, and
Dogs - Species Status and Conservation Action Plan.
Cambridge: IUCN/SSC Canids Specialist Group. 1, 26–
[3] Peres, C. 1992. “Observations on hunting by small-eared
(Atelocynus microtis) and bush dogs (Speothos venaticus)
in central-western Amazonia”. Mammalia. 55, 635–639.
[4] Defler, T. and Santacruz, A. 1994. “A capture of and some
notes on Atelocynus microtis (sclater, 1883) (Carnivora:
Canidae) in the Colombian Amazon”. Trianea. 5, 417–
[5] Kupfer, A., Gower, D., and Himstedt, W. 2003. “Field
observations on thepredation of the caecilian amphibian,
genus Ichthyophis (fitzinger, 1826), by the red-tailed pipe
snake Cylindrophis ruffus (Laurenti, 1768)”. Amphibia-
Reptilia. 24, 212–215.
[6] Gower, D., Rasmussen, J., Loader, S., and Wilkinson, M.
2004. “The caecilian amphibian Scolecomorphus kirkii as
prey of the burrowing asp Atractaspis aterrima gunther:
Trophic relationship of fossorial vertebrates.African
Journal of Ecology. 42, 83–87.
[7] Stoddart, D. 1984. “Biogeography and ecology of the
seychelles islands”. Monographiae Biologicae (Nether-
lands). 55, 1–691.
[8] Greeney, H., Gelis, R., and Funk, W. 2008. “Predation
on caecilians (Caecilia orientalis) by barred hawks (Leu-
copterni sprinceps) depends on rainfall”. Herpetological
Review. 39, 162–164.
[9] Duellman, W. and Trueb, L. 1994. “Biology of amphib-
ians”. Baltimore: JohnsHopkins University Press.
... Little is known about the ecology of short-eared dogs with most available information based on anecdotal evidence (Peres 1991;Koester et al. 2008;Cisneros-Heredia & Mosquera 2010), from individuals kept in captivity in several zoos (Nowak 2005), from a study conducted on a captive male progressively reintroduced into the Peruvian rainforest, and from observations of a small number of wild individuals in Peru (Leite-Pitman et al. 2003a). Most of its life-history remains virtually unknown, with little information on demography, habitat preference, spatial use and distribution (Leite-Pitman & Williams 2004;Leite-Pitman & De Mello Beisiegel 2013). ...
Full-text available
The short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis) is one of the least known canids of the world. Essential aspects of its ecology, activity patterns and feeding habits remain unknown. To study the composition, behavior and interactions of the western Amazonian scavenger community, a baited camera-trapping survey was performed from August to September 2018 in the surroundings of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, Ecuador). A total of 12 camera stations were set up, employing cow heads acquired from local meat processors as bait. Short-eared dogs were captured by camera-traps, and two individuals showed interest in the carrion, providing the first evidence that short-eared dogs include scavenging as part of their foraging behavior. Detection of short-eared dogs in the area was surprisingly frequent, despite the short survey period, indicating that use of baited camera-traps can be an effective tool for the study of the short-eared dog, an elusive and poorly documented species.
Full-text available
We report the first record of Siphonops paulensis predation by Burrowing Owl occurred in a Cerrado fragment. In addition to describing the predation event, we discuss the owl's ability to hunt for fossorial species and the presence of poison glands on the amphibian's skin, which can act as a defense against predators.
Full-text available
The short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis) is endemic to the Amazon basin and its occurrence is associated with undisturbed natural forest covers where it has been recorded in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia. This carnivore is considered one of the least known canid species on the planet. This condition means that it is listed internationally as Near Threatened (NT) at the national level, it is not located under any category of threat due to sporadic records throughout its distribution range and scarce information about its ecology. The presence of an individual of the short-eared dog is reported, documented through the use of camera traps in the northern sector of the Serranía del Chiribiquete National Natural Park. The indiviw- dual was photographed in the upper basin of the Tunia River, corresponding to the municipality of Calmar (Guaviare) in Colombia. The generation of knowledge about the distribution and ecological requirements of the short-eared dog is essential for the formulation of regional conservation plans and the inclusion of this canid in the values object of conservation (VOC) of the protected areas in the Colombian Amazon.
Full-text available
Canid Biology & Conservation. The short-eared dog Atelocynus microtis is a solitary, medium sized canid endemic to South America. It is distributed across lowland Amazon rainforest habitat. Little is known of its ecology and there is limited information available on its diet, with records so far indicating a diet of fruit and live prey. Camera trap videos of a short-eared dog scavenging on the carcass of a nine-banded armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus over a period of four days were recorded along the Las Piedras river, Madre de Dios, Peru. This is the first record of scavenging by short-eared dogs.
Full-text available
The persistent high deforestation rate and fragmentation of the Amazon forests are the main threats to their biodiversity. To anticipate and mitigate these threats, it is important to understand and predict how species respond to the rapidly changing landscape. The short-eared dog Atelocynus microtis is the only Amazon-endemic canid and one of the most understudied wild dogs worldwide. We investigated short-eared dog habitat associations on two spatial scales. First, we used the largest record database ever compiled for short-eared dogs in combination with species distribution models to map species habitat suitability, estimate its distribution range and predict shifts in species distribution in response to predicted deforestation across the entire Amazon (regional scale). Second, we used systematic camera trap surveys and occupancy models to investigate how forest cover and forest fragmentation affect the space use of this species in the Southern Brazilian Amazon (local scale). Species distribution models suggested that the short-eared dog potentially occurs over an extensive and continuous area, through most of the Amazon region south of the Amazon River. However, approximately 30% of the short-eared dog's current distribution is expected to be lost or suffer sharp declines in habitat suitability by 2027 (within three generations) due to forest loss. This proportion might reach 40% of the species distribution in unprotected areas and exceed 60% in some interfluves (i.e. portions of land separated by large rivers) of the Amazon basin. Our local-scale analysis indicated that the presence of forest positively affected short-eared dog space use, while the density of forest edges had a negative effect. Beyond shedding light on the ecology of the short-eared dog and refining its distribution range, our results stress that forest loss poses a serious threat to the conservation of the species in a short time frame. Hence, we propose a re-assessment of the short-eared dog's current IUCN Red List status (Near Threatened) based on findings presented here. Our study exemplifies how data can be integrated across sources and modelling procedures to improve our knowledge of relatively understudied species.
Full-text available
Los roedores caviomorfos se encuentran en una gran variedad de hábitats, tienen hábitos diversos, y una gran disparidad en el tamaño corporal. Como consumidores primarios, constituyen una oferta de alimento importante para los predadores. Revisamos 127 trabajos que incluyeron 249 dietas de mamíferos carnívoros con el fin de detectar la presencia de caviomorfos en sus dietas. Identificamos cuales fueron las especies más consumidas y exploramos los posibles patrones de predación a escala biogeográfica. Para esto exploramos la relación entre la frecuencia de ocurrencia (FO) de caviomorfos en la dieta de carnívoros con el peso corporal de éstos y el de sus presas (caviomorfos); con la riqueza específica de las dietas y con posibles variaciones geográficas (latitud y longitud). Por otro lado exploramos la relación entre aspectos de sociabilidad de caviomorfos con la predación por carnívoros, así como la superposición en el tiempo de actividad de predadores y presas (caviomorfos). Finalmente presentamos un estudio que resalta la importancia de dos especies de cavimomorfos como estructurantes de un ensamble de aves rapaces en la estepa Patagónica.
Full-text available
A report is given of an adult caecilian, Scolecomorphus kirkii, found in the gut of a specimen of the snake Atractaspis aterrima from the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania. Both predator and prey are largely fossorial in soil, and their ecology is poorly known, such that this is the first reported predator of any scolecomorphid caecilian. The caecilian was ingested head first and much of the flesh from the anterior of the specimen had been digested. The prey/predator mass ratio is 0.48. This value is substantially higher than reported for A. aterrima from West Africa, and refutes the notion that this species feeds only on small prey. Most reported predators of caecilians are snakes, and a brief review is presented. Rapport est donné du cas d'un cécilien adulte, Scolecomorphus kirkii, trouvé dans l'intestin d'un serpent Atractaspis aterrima, dans les Monts Udzungwa, en Tanzanie. Le prédateur et la proie sont en grande partie fouisseurs et on connaît mal leur écologie, à tel point que ceci est le premier cas rapporté de prédateur d'un cécilien scolécomorphe. Le cécilien a été absorbé la tête la première et une grande partie de la chair de l'avant de l'animal avait été digérée. Le rapport de masse proie/prédateur est de 0,48. Ce chiffre est nettement plus élevé que celui rapporté pour A. aterrima en Afrique de l'Ouest et contredit l'idée que cette espèce se nourrit de petites proies. La plupart des prédateurs des céciliens rapportés sont des serpents et on en présente une brève révision.
A capture of and some notes on Atelocynus microtis (sclater, 1883) (Carnivora: Canidae) in the Colombian Amazon
  • T Defler
  • A Santacruz
Defler, T. and Santacruz, A. 1994. "A capture of and some notes on Atelocynus microtis (sclater, 1883) (Carnivora: Canidae) in the Colombian Amazon". Trianea. 5, 417419.