Skip to Main Content
Plant protein and secondary metabolites influence diet selection in a mammalian specialist herbivoreAuthor(s): Amy C. Ulappa; Rick G. Kelsey; Graham G. Frye; Janet L. Rachlow; LIsa A. Shipley; Laura Bond; Xinzhu Pu; Jennifer Sorensen Forbey
Source: Journal of Mammalogy
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
Download Publication (0 B)
DescriptionFor herbivores, nutrient intake is limited by the relatively low nutritional quality of plants and high concentrations of potentially toxic defensive compounds (plant secondary metabolites [PSMs]) produced by many plants. In response to phytochemical challenges, some herbivores selectively forage on plants with higher nutrient and lower PSM concentrations relative to other plants. Pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) are dietary specialists that feed on sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) and forage on specific plants more than others within a foraging patch. We predicted that the plants with evidence of heavy foraging (browsed plants) would be of higher dietary quality than plants that were not browsed (unbrowsed). We used model selection to determine which phytochemical variables best explained the difference between browsed and unbrowsed plants. Higher crude protein increased the odds that plants would be browsed by pygmy rabbits and the opposite was the case for certain PSMs. Additionally, because pygmy rabbits can occupy foraging patches (burrows) for consecutive years, their browsing may influence the nutritional and PSM constituents of plants at the burrows. In a post hoc analysis, we did not find a significant relationship between phytochemical concentrations, browse status, and burrow occupancy length. We concluded that pygmy rabbits use nutritional and chemical cues while making foraging decisions.
- Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationUlappa, Amy C.; Kelsey, Rick G.; Frye, Graham G.; Rachlow, Janet L.; Shipley, LIsa A.; Bond, Laura; Pu, Xinzhu; Forbey, Jennifer Sorensen. 2014. Plant protein and secondary metabolites influence diet selection in a mammalian specialist herbivore. Journal of Mammalogy. 95(4): 834-842.
Keywordsforaging, monoterpenes, nutrition, pygmy rabbit, sagebrush
- Chapter 21. Composite shrubs
- Sagebrush-associated species of conservation concern
- Prescribed fire, soil, and plants: burn effects and interactions in the central Great Basin
XML: View XML