The University of Arizona

Dietary structural types of polygastric herbivores at different environments and seasons.

A. Pelliza, P. Willems, M. Manacorda


A classification of dietary structural types that represents different arrangements of forage classes is proposed. It may be especially useful for interpreting and comparing herbivore diets from different environments. As an example, a data set with the botanical composition of 55 pooled fecal samples determined by microhistological analysis was analyzed. These samples came from 4 species of range herbivores (cattle, sheep, goat, and guanaco -Lama guanicoe-), from 9 different environments of Northern Patagonia (Argentina) during 3 seasons. Based on plant characteristics related with the capacity of the animals to eat and digest each plant and with the occasional or permanent presence of them in the vegetation, the information was grouped into 5 forage classes: woody plants, perennial grasses, annual grasses, grasslikes, and forbs. A principal component analysis of the grouped data was conducted. The graphic representations evidenced the gradual changes in the structure of the data. Later, working over the subspace defined by the 3 first principal component axes, a hierarchical classification was performed that resulted in 9 dietary structural types. These types represented variation that resulted from the interaction of pasture differences, species of herbivore and season. This concept is an abstraction developed from the experience, to extend its utility beyond the particular cases.



Lama guanicoe;feces composition;pastures;selective grazing;species differences;vegetation;feeds;digestibility;sheep;goats;cattle;seasonal variation;Argentina;botanical composition;forage

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