Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

World's largest herbivore, the African elephant, makes unique food choices

Date:
July 10, 2012
Source:
Allen Press Publishing Services
Summary:
When is an elephant a picky eater? A study of the African elephant finds that, despite its large size and fast-operating digestive system, this mammal does not eat just anything. This megaherbivore selectively chooses species and parts of the woody plants that comprise its diet.

Elephant feeds on the plains of the Masai Mara, Kenya.
Credit: Palenque / Fotolia

When is an elephant a picky eater? A study of the African elephant finds that, despite its large size and fast-operating digestive system, this mammal does not eat just anything. This megaherbivore selectively chooses species and parts of the woody plants that comprise its diet.

An article in the current issue of Journal of Mammalogy explores the dietary habits of the African elephant. Researchers investigate what plants this animal selects, what parts of a plant it consumes, and how its choices vary with seasonal changes.

Previous studies suggested that the larger the animal, the less selective it might be in its diet, due to lower nutrient requirements per unit of body mass. Accordingly, a large animal would be more capable than a smaller one of digesting high-fiber content and potentially toxic chemical contents of some plants. Thus the African elephant, the largest extant herbivore, should be willing and able to consume a broad variety of plant species.

This study takes a closer look at the dietary patterns of more than 80,000 elephants in the Chobe National Park of Botswana. While its size and hindgut digestion do enable the African elephant to exploit a large assortment of plants, it seems to occupy a rather distinct niche from other animals in its actual choices.

During the wet season, elephants found only 30 percent of the woody species available for consumption palatable. In the hot, dry season, this increases to 50 percent. While the elephant might eat shoots and leaves during the wet season, it prefers stem, bark, and roots, making up 50 percent of its diet in the cool, dry season and increasing to 94 percent of it consumption in the hot, dry season.

It is not so much the choice of plant species that separates the elephant from other animals, but the selection of plant parts. The African elephant concentrates on the bark, stem, and roots rather than foliage or fruit of plants. These choices reduce the elephant's overlap of food selection with other animals.

The food choices of the African elephant can leave a large footprint. But rather than eliminating most of the woody plant component, elephant feeding habits may cause a compositional change among the woodland species due to their neglect of certain types of plants and favor of others.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Allen Press Publishing Services. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Norman Owen-Smith, Jonas Chafota. Selective feeding by a megaherbivore, the African elephant (Loxodonta africana). Journal of Mammalogy, 2012; 93 (3): 698 DOI: 10.1644/11-MAMM-A-350.1

Cite This Page:

Allen Press Publishing Services. "World's largest herbivore, the African elephant, makes unique food choices." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120710115851.htm>.
Allen Press Publishing Services. (2012, July 10). World's largest herbivore, the African elephant, makes unique food choices. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120710115851.htm
Allen Press Publishing Services. "World's largest herbivore, the African elephant, makes unique food choices." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120710115851.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins