An evaluation of diet quality in two desert ungulates exposed to hyper-arid conditions

  • SR Henley Ramon Science Centre, Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, PO Box 194, Mizpe Ramon 80600, Israel; Department of Zoology, University of Port Elizabeth, PO Box 1600, Port Elizabeth 6000, South Africa; current address:
  • D Ward Ramon Science Centre, Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, P.O. Box 194, Mizpe Ramon 80600, Israel; current address: School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scot
Keywords: digestibility, energy, faecal profiling, herbivory, Negev Desert, nitrogen

Abstract

Desert-dwelling ungulates are frequently exposed to plant communities of poor nutritional quality and low abundance. We assessed the diet quality of a large-bodied non-ruminant, the Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) and that of a small-bodied ruminant, the dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) in Makhtesh Ramon, Negev desert, Israel. The diet of the dorcas gazelle was significantly richer in crude protein than that of the wild ass. The level of crude protein in the faeces of dorcas gazelles was higher than that measured in the plant species, suggesting that diet selection by gazelles occurred at the level of plant parts, not species. Wild ass faecal energy was positively correlated with plant species richness and cover of forage species. Faecal digestibility (a measure of dietary fibre content) in both the wild ass and dorcas gazelle was negatively correlated with plant cover. These results are discussed in terms of the ungulates' digestive physiology and body size, as well as their habitat selection.

Keywords: digestibility, energy, faecal profiling, herbivory, Negev Desert, nitrogen

African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2006, 23(3): 185–190
Published
2006-11-20
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 1727-9380
print ISSN: 1022-0119