Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Ungulates rely less on visual cues, but more on adaptive movement behaviour, when searching for forage (#331)

Jan A. Venter 1 , Herbert H.T. Prins 2 , Alla Mashanova 3 , Rob Slotow 4
  1. Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
  2. Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands
  3. University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, United Kingdom
  4. University of Kwazulu-Natal , Durban, South Africa

Finding suitable forage patches in a heterogeneous landscape, where patches change dynamically both spatially and temporally could be challenging to large herbivores, especially if they have no a priori knowledge of the location of the patches. We tested whether three large grazing herbivores with a variety of different traits, improve their efficiency when foraging at a heterogeneous habitat patch scale, by using visual cues to gain a priori knowledge about potential higher value foraging patches. For each species (zebra (Equus burchelli), red hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus subspecies camaa) and eland (Tragelaphus oryx), we used step lengths and directionality of movement to infer if they were using visual cues to find suitable forage patches at a habitat patch scale. Step lengths were significantly longer for all species when moving to non-visible patches but all movements showed little directionality. These large grazing herbivores did not use visual cues when foraging at a habitat patch scale, but rather adapted their movement behaviour to the heterogeneity of the specific landscape.