Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level



Biological Sciences


Villasenor, Amelia

Committee Member/Reader

Naithani, Kusum

Committee Member/Second Reader

Forbes, Kristian

Committee Member/Third Reader

Dowdle, Andrew


Mammals play a large role in the ecosystems where some, especially large-bodied mammals, act as ecosystem engineers. Mammal carcasses, particularly those of large body mass act as a temporary island of dense nutrients that support other organisms, including other mammal species, for an extended period. Research in this field currently focuses on the link between mammal carcass size and nutrient availably or on non-mammalian size and biodiversity, but little is available on the correlation between mammal carcass size and its influence on ecosystem biodiversity. Here we ask, does the available biomass (i.e., body size) of the carcass affect its role in ecosystem function? Using a camera-trap monitoring system in a forested, sparsely populated site in the Arkansas River Valley, we measured the biodiversity associated with three mammal carcasses of small and medium size. A medium mammal carcass (5.5 kilograms) attracted 9 mammal species, with some up to 27 kilograms, over a period of two weeks. A second medium-sized mammal carcass (2.2 kilograms) attracted 7 species over a period of two weeks. A third small-sized mammal (1.2 kilograms) attracted 5 species over a period of two weeks. All mammals exploited the carcass in some manner, either by scavenging the carcass or feeding off the insects that also consume the carcass. When compared to the controlled observations at the same region, when no carcasses were present, there is an increase in the diversity and abundance of species observed. This demonstrates that living mammals exploit mammal carcasses for resources and suggests that the larger a carcass is, the more it may serve as an important resource to the nutrient cycling of an ecosystem. These results can be used to understand the impacts of biodiversity loss, specifically the loss of large-bodied mammals.


Biodiversity, carcasses, carcass body size, ecosystem