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African Zoology

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Extension of the diet of an extreme foraging specialist, the aardwolf (Proteles cristata)

J.L. de Vries, C.W.W. Pirk, P.W. Bateman, E.Z. Cameron, F. Dalerum

Abstract


The aardwolf, Proteles cristata, is a highly specialized myrmecophagous carnivore  that feeds almost exclusively on termites of the genus Trinervitermes. Here we report data from an ongoing analysis of aardwolf diet, where we documented remains of sun spiders and scorpions in aardwolf scats. Although the prevalence of these items was low, with sun spiders recorded in nine and scorpion remains in one of 246 scats, our  observations suggest that aardwolves opportunistically feed on larger prey than previously thought. However, our observations do not suggest that aardwolves utilized these large prey items as alternatives to their main food resource during periods of food scarcity. Therefore, we suggest that the adaptive advantages of such opportunism may be small, but that the observed behavioural plasticity could be advantageous under specific environmental conditions and therefore is maintained as a behavioural trait.


Key words: carnivore, solifugids, diet breadth, resource utilization.




http://dx.doi.org/10.3377/004.046.0113
AJOL African Journals Online