, Volume 84, Issue 3, pp 411–418 | Cite as

Comparative nutrient extraction from forages by grazing bovids and equids: a test of the nutritional model of equid/bovid competition and coexistence

  • Patrick Duncan
  • T. J. Foose
  • I. J. Gordon
  • C. G. Gakahu
  • Monte Lloyd
Original Papers


Ruminants are unevenly distributed across the range of body sizes observed in herbivorous mammals; among extant East African species they predominate, in numbers and species richness, in the medium body sizes (10–600 kg). The small and the large species are all hind-gut fermenters. Some medium-sized hind-gut fermenters, equid perissodactyls, coexist with the grazing ruminants, principally bovid artiodactyls, in grassland ecosystems. These patterns have been explained by two complementary models based on differences between the digestive physiology of ruminants and hind-gut fermenters. The Demment and Van Soest (1985) model accounts for the absence of ruminants among the small and large species, while the Bell/Janis/Foose model accounts both for the predominance of ruminants, and their co-existence with equids among the medium-sized species (Bell 1971; Janis 1976; Foose 1982). The latter model assumes that the rumen is competitively superior to the hind-gut system on medium quality forages, and that hind-gut fermenters persist because of their ability to eat more, and thus to extract more nutrients per day from high fibre, low quality forages. Data presented here demonstrate that compared to similarly sized grazing ruminants (bovids), hind-gut fermenters (equids) have higher rates of food intake which more than compensate for their lesser ability to digest plant material. As a consequence equids extract more nutrients per day than bovids not only from low quality foods, but from the whole range of forages eaten by animals of this size. Neither of the current nutritional models, nor refinements of them satisfactorily explain the preponderance of the bovids among medium-sized ungulates; alternative hypotheses are presented.

Key words

Ruminant Hind-gut fermenter Intake Digestion Competition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Duncan
    • 1
  • T. J. Foose
    • 2
  • I. J. Gordon
    • 1
  • C. G. Gakahu
    • 3
  • Monte Lloyd
    • 4
  1. 1.Station Biologique de la Tour du ValatArlesFrance
  2. 2.Conservation Director's OfficeAmerican Association of Zoological Parks and AquariumsApple ValleyUSA
  3. 3.Wildlife Conservation InternationalNairobiKenya
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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