Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Eating poisonous plants saves life of gemsbok in Namibian desert

Date:
August 16, 2013
Source:
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)
Summary:
In drought periods browsing springbok feed on all plant material they can find, while grazing gemsbok, in contrast, switch their diet to a high proportion of poisonous plants -- and they survive.

Gemsbok (Oryx gazella gazella) in the Kunene region in Namibia. Copyright/ Author: David Lehmann/IZWGemsbok (Oryx gazella gazella) in the Kunene region in Namibia.
Credit: David Lehmann/IZW

In drought periods browsing springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) feed on all plant material they can find, while grazing gemsbok (Oryx gazella gazella), in contrast, switch their diet to a high proportion of poisonous plants -- and they survive. These findings were just published in the scientific online journal PLOS ONE.

"We wanted to understand how these quite well-studied ungulates with contrasting feeding strategies can survive and even flourish in an adverse habitat like the Kunene region in Namibia, where the environment is characterised by strong and unpredictable variation in resource availability," says David Lehmann, doctoral candidate at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and first author of the study. Researchers from theIZW, the University of Namibia and other Namibian partners found that gemsbok (also called oryx) adjusted its diet according to season. During drought periods, they fed on a restricted mixture of plants, including more than 30 % of shrubs and trees. Surprisingly, gemsbok diet also consisted of up to 25 % of Damara milk-bush (Euphorbia damarana), an endemic, large succulent plant which is available all year round but highly toxic. When food was plentiful, gemsbok specialised exclusively on grasses and more ephemeral succulent species.

In contrast, springboks fed on a higher proportion of shrubs and trees than grasses and succulent plants irrespective of environmental conditions. As the researchers expected, springbok opportunistically adjusted their diet in response to variation in food sources availabilities, preferring e.g. grass sprouts during the wet season and browsing predominantly on leaves of bushes when grass quality decreased during drought. Springbok therefore adopted a different dietary strategy than gemsbok when facing a shortage of food sources.

The potential effects of the Damara milk-bush on gemsbok health are still unknown. However, by extensively using this poisonous plant, gemsbok succeed in surviving environmental challenges. Gemsbok seem to be well adapted to the toxic effects of special plants growing in dry regions, and they benefit from their high water and nutritious content. Because global climate change increases drought periods and enhances desertification in Southern Africa, it is crucial to understand how wildlife species respond to the impoverishment of their natural environments and the decline of their food sources. Furthermore, gemsbok and springbok are two of the main protein sources for local communities, who would be negatively affected by declining wildlife population sizes. Knowledge about feeding behaviours of local species like gemsbok and springbok is therefore fundamental to establish sustainable wildlife management plans.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David Lehmann, John Kazgeba Elijah Mfune, Erick Gewers, Johann Cloete, Conrad Brain, Christian Claus Voigt. Dietary Plasticity of Generalist and Specialist Ungulates in the Namibian Desert: A Stable Isotopes Approach. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (8): e72190 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072190

Cite This Page:

Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). "Eating poisonous plants saves life of gemsbok in Namibian desert." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130816222749.htm>.
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). (2013, August 16). Eating poisonous plants saves life of gemsbok in Namibian desert. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130816222749.htm
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). "Eating poisonous plants saves life of gemsbok in Namibian desert." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130816222749.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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