Original Research

Assessing diet in savanna herbivores using stable carbon isotope ratios of faeces

D. Codron, J. Codron, M. Sponheimer, Julia A. Lee-Thorp, T. Robinson, C.C. Grant, D. de Ruiter
Koedoe | Vol 48, No 1 | a170 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v48i1.170 | © 2005 D. Codron, J. Codron, M. Sponheimer, Julia A. Lee-Thorp, T. Robinson, C.C. Grant, D. de Ruiter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 June 2005 | Published: 30 June 2005

About the author(s)

D. Codron, University of Cape Town, South Africa
J. Codron, University of Cape Town, South Africa
M. Sponheimer, University of Colorado at Boulder, United States
Julia A. Lee-Thorp, University of Cape Town, South Africa
T. Robinson, Brigham Young University, United States
C.C. Grant, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
D. de Ruiter, Texas A & M University, United States

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Abstract

In African savannas, browse-based resources (@3 plants) are isotopically distinct from grasses (@4 plants). The carbon isotopic composition of the basic plant diet is recorded in animal tissues. Mammal faeces are a readily accessible, non-invasive, sample material for temporally resolved dietary reconstructions. Faeces, however, include both undigested plant matter and waste, hence accuracy of dietary calculations could potentially be compromised by shifts in plant isotopic values related to seasonal or spatial differences, or by variability in the isotopic differences between faeces and diet. A controlled feeding study of four ungulate species showed a small, consistent difference between diet and faeces of-0.9 o, irrespective of whether the diet was @3 or C4-based. Results from faeces oftaxa known to be pure grazers, pure browsers, and mixed-feeders from the Kruger National Park were entirely consistent with their diets, but the accuracy of dietary reconstructions is enhanced with data from local plant communities.

Keywords

herbivores; diet; plants; faeces; isotopic variability

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Crossref Citations

1. Significance of diet type and diet quality for ecological diversity of African ungulates
DARYL CODRON, JULIA A. LEE-THORP, MATT SPONHEIMER, JACQUI CODRON, DARRYL DE RUITER, JAMES S. BRINK
Journal of Animal Ecology  vol: 76  issue: 3  first page: 526  year: 2007  
doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01222.x