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Diet and diet selection of two species in the macropodid browser-grazer continuum: do they eat what they 'should'?

Diet and diet selection of two species in the macropodid browser-grazer continuum: do they eat what they 'should'?

Australian Journal of Zoology 50(2): 183-192

ISSN/ISBN: 0004-959X

DOI: 10.1071/zo01043

On the basis of their dentition, species of Macropus are predicted to be grazers and species of Thylogale are predicted to be browsers. We tested these predictions by comparing diet and diet selection of the red-necked wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus) and red-bellied pademelon (Thylogale billardierii), by analysing forestomach contents of animals that had fed in the same region of a young pine plantation. Grasses, followed by broad-leafed forbs, were the most abundant plant groups in the field (together comprising 71% of the plant biomass), and were also the main dietary components of both macropodid species (91%). No differences were detected in diet of the two species when summarised in terms of diet diversity, evenness or overlap. When diet selection was compared, however, distinct differences were found between the two species. Red-necked wallabies selected for grasses (74% of the diet compared with 55% in the field) whereas red-bellied pademelons selected for broad-leafed forbs (38% of the diet compared with 16% in the field). Feeding patterns were therefore consistent with dietary predictions, provided diet selection was considered rather than simply diet. Diet selection is more appropriate for testing dietary predictions, because it reflects animals' attempts to consume food items that they prefer, that is, that they are functionally suited to consuming, even when such items are not as abundant as less preferred food.

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