Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 609-624

First online:

How goats learn to distinguish between novel foods that differ in postingestive consequences

  • Frederick D. ProvenzaAffiliated withRange Science Department, Utah State University
  • , Justin J. LynchAffiliated withCSIRO Division of Animal Production
  • , Elizabeth A. BurrittAffiliated withRange Science Department, Utah State University
  • , Cody B. ScottAffiliated withRange Science Department, Utah State University

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To better understand some of the mechanisms that control selection of novel foods differing in postingestive consequences, we offered goats current season's (CSG) and older (OG) growth twigs from the shrub blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima). CSG is higher than OG in nitrogen (1.04% v. 0.74%) and it is more digestible in vitro in goat rumen fluid (48% v. 38%). Nevertheless, goats acquire a preference for OG because CSG contains much higher levels of a condensed tannin that causes a learned food aversion. When CSG and OG were offered to goat naive to blackbrush, the goats did not choose either OG or CSG exclusively, but when they finally (1) ate more CSG than OG within a meal (averages of 44 g and 16 g, respectively) and (2) ate enough CSG within the meal to acquire an aversion (average of 44 g), they ingested less CSG than OG from then onward. Accordingly, the change in food selection resulting from postingestive feedback was influenced by the amount of each food ingested within a meal. This was further shown when we varied the amounts of CSG and OG that goats ingested within a meal, and then gave them by gavage the toxin lithium chloride (LiCl). They subsequently ate less of the food eaten in the greatest amount, regardless of whether it was CSG or OG. The salience of the flavor (i.e., taste and odor) of CSG and OG also played a role in the acquired aversion to CSG. Salience evidently was due to a flavor common to both OG and CSG that was more concentrated in CSG. We conclude that the relative amounts of different foods ingested within a meal, and the salience of the flavors of those foods, are both important variables that cause goats to distinguish between novel foods that differ in postingestive consequences.

Key Words

Toxin food selection food aversion secondary metabolite nutrition palatability lithium chloride ruminants goat Capra sp