, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 571-579
Date: 18 Mar 2008

Diet of the Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis) in a mountain ecosystem

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The diet of the Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis) was studied through microhistological pellet analysis in two areas from a mountain ecosystem in Central Portugal. Fecal pellets were collected monthly in 24 plots spatially distributed throughout the two study areas. For each period, a sample of 15 to 20 pellets was milled and 400 epidermal fragments were identified, by comparison with a reference collection. A wide range of plant species was observed in hare’s diet. Grasses represent the basis of the Iberian hare diet, with frequencies always higher than 50% in both study areas (annual average = 69.98%). Most of the 35 species of grasses assembled for the reference collection (91.43%) were identified in the pellets. Nevertheless, only six of these were consumed in proportions greater than 5%, being Anthoxanthum odoratum, Secale cereale and Agrostis spp. the species ingested in higher frequencies. The rate of grasses consumption reached 80.69% in winter but decreased in summer to around 55%. In this season, a concurrent rise in the ingestion of other plant groups, like herbs and shrubs, and of plant inflorescences was observed. This work provides the first results on the Iberian hare’s diet on mountain ecosystems, and suggests that the Iberian hare diet in a mountain ecosystem is similar to the observed in L. europaeus and L. timidus.

Communicated by C. Gortázar