Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 1197-1206

First online:

Relative Availability of Tannin- and Terpene-containing Foods Affects Food Intake and Preference by Lambs

  • Travis E. MoteAffiliated withDepartment of Wildland Resources, Utah State University
  • , Juan J. VillalbaAffiliated withDepartment of Wildland Resources, Utah State University Email author 
  • , Fredrick D. ProvenzaAffiliated withDepartment of Wildland Resources, Utah State University

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The availability of different forages varies across landscapes, but little is known about how proportional consumption of different foods affects food intake and the use of landscapes. The relative amounts of nutrients and plant secondary metabolites (PSM) consumed by herbivores may influence forage intake and animal fitness in landscapes dominated by plants with PSM. Our objective was to determine if the relative availability of nutritious foods that contain PSM affected food preference and intake by lambs. Lambs in three treatments (eight lambs/treatment) were offered two PSM-containing foods at different relative availabilities: treatment 1—ad libitum terpene- and 100-g tannin-containing food, treatment 2—ad libitum tannin- and 100-g terpene-containing food, and treatment 3—ad libitum access to both tannin- and terpene-containing foods. We measured intake of individual foods and total intake of PSM-containing foods during conditioning and a preference test, where animals were offered both PSM-containing foods ad libitum. When lambs were fed 100 g of the tannin-containing food, they ingested more terpene and total PSM (P < 0.05) than when both PSM were offered ad libitum, but limiting terpenes did not affect intake of tannin or total intake of PSM (P > 0.10). During preference tests, all groups preferred tannins over terpenes, but lambs in the treatment fed 100 g of tannin had a higher preference for terpenes than did lambs in the other two treatments (P < 0.10). These results support the notion that the relative amounts of PSM consumed affects intake and preference for PSM-containing foods by herbivores.


Relative proportion Diet mixing Sheep Intake Plant secondary metabolites