, Volume 102, Issue 4, pp 404–412 | Cite as

Environmental constraints on the foraging behaviour of a dwarf antelope (Madoqua kirkii)

  • Martha Bertha Manser
  • Peter Nicolas Meade Brotherton
Original Paper


Dik-diks (Madoqua sp.) inhabit semi-arid regions and experience very different conditions of food availability and quality between wet and dry seasons. By comparing the behaviour of dik-diks between these two seasons, we identified environmental constraints affecting their feeding strategies. In both seasons foraging time was limited by high mid day temperatures. In the wet season a high intake rate compensates for the loss in foraging time, but in the dry season water and protein become limiting. To meet minimum daily water requirements in the dry season dik-diks fed on plant species that they avoided during the wet season. Analysis at the plant species level showed higher species selectivity in the wet season than in the dry season. In a multiple regression analysis food species preferences were best explained by relative abundance and water content in the dry season, and by dry matter content in the wet season. In the wet season the daily dry-matter intake of dik-diks in the field was only about 10% higher than the theoretically predicted minimum for a ruminant of this body weight, while protein and water intake were about 3 times as high. This suggests that the most limiting dietary component in the wet season is energy. In the dry season the daily intake of all dietary components is lower than the theoretical minimum required, and also lower than the values suggested by laboratory studies of dik-diks. This dry season deficit is presumably met from body reserves. Dry season water intake was approximately 30% of the intake observed in laboratory studies indicating that dikdiks are even better adapted to arid conditions than suggested by physiological experiments.

Key words

Environmental constraints Foraging behaviour Herbivore Browser Madoqua kirkii 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. AFRC (1992) AFRC technical committee on responses to nutrients. Report 9. Nutritive requirements of ruminant animals: protein. Nutrition Abstract and Reviews, Series B 62:787–835Google Scholar
  2. Belovsky GE (1978) Diet optimization in a generalist herbivore: The moose. Theor Popul Biol 14:105–134Google Scholar
  3. Belovsky GE (1984) Herbivore optimal foraging: a comparative test of three models. Am Nat 124:97–115Google Scholar
  4. Berry HH (1980) Behavioural and eco-physiological studies on blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taruinus) at the Etosha National Park. Ph.D. thesis, University of Cape TownGoogle Scholar
  5. Brotherton PNM (1994) The evolution of monogamy in the dik-dik. Ph.D. thesis, University of CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Bryant JP, Provenza FD, Pastor J, Reichardt PB, Clausen TP, du Toit JT (1991) Interactions between woody plants and browsing mammals mediated by secondary metabolites. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 22:431–446Google Scholar
  7. Canfield R (1941) Application of line inteception in sampling range vegetation. J For 39:388–394Google Scholar
  8. Clutton-Brock TH, Guinness FE, Albon SD (1982) Red deer: behaviour and ecology of two sexes. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Estes RD (1991) The behaviour guide to African mammals. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  10. Freeland WJ, Janzen DH (1974) Strategies in herbivory by mammals: the role of plant secondary compounds. Am Nat 108:269–289Google Scholar
  11. Hendrichs H, Hendrichs U (1971) Freilanduntersuchungen zur Ökologie und Ethologie der Zwerg-Antilope Madoqua (Rhynchotragus) kirkii (Günther, 1880). In: W. Wickler (ed) Dik dik und Elefanten. Piper, München, pp. 9–75Google Scholar
  12. Hendrichs H (1975) Changes in a population of dik dik Madoqua (Rhynchotragus) kirkii (Günther 1880). Z Tierpsychol 38:55–69Google Scholar
  13. Hofmann RR (1973) The ruminant stomach (East African Monographs in Biology). East African Literature Bureau, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  14. Hoppe PP (1977a) Comparison of vountary food and water consumption and digestion in Kik's dik-dik and suni. J E Afri Wildl 15:41–48Google Scholar
  15. Hoppe PP (1977b) How to survive heat and aridity: ecophysiology of the dik-dik antelope. Vet Medic Rev 1:77–86Google Scholar
  16. Jarman PJ (1974) The social organization of antelope in relation to their ecology. Behavior 48:215–267Google Scholar
  17. Kellas LM (1955) Obervations on the reproductive activities, measurements and growth rate of dik-dik (Rhynchotragus kirkii thomasi Neumann). Proc Zool Soc Lond 124:751–784Google Scholar
  18. Krebs CJ (1989) Ecological methodology. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Maloiy GMO, Rugangazi BM, Clemens ET (1988) Physiology of the dik-dik antelope. Comp Biochem Physiol 91A:1–8Google Scholar
  20. Manser MB (1994) How the dwarf antelope, Damara dik-dik (Madoqua kirkii damarensis), uses its territory, and Constrainst on foraging behaviour- and how dik-diks (Madoqua kirkii damarensis) deal with it. Diplomarbeit, University of BasleGoogle Scholar
  21. Noldus (1990) The observer: software for behavioural research, version 2.0. Noldus Information Technology WageningenGoogle Scholar
  22. Oakes EJ, Harmsen R (1992) Sex, age and seasonal differences in the diets and activity budgets of muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus). Can J Zool 70:605–616Google Scholar
  23. Owen-Smith N, Novellie P (1982) What should a clever ungulate eat? Am Nat 119:151–178Google Scholar
  24. Parson AJ, Newman JA, Penning PD, Harvey A, Orr RJ (1994) Diet preference of sheep: effects of recent diet, physiological state and species abundance. J Anim Ecol 63:465–478Google Scholar
  25. Prins HHT (1987) The buffalo of Manyara. PhD thesis, University of GroningenGoogle Scholar
  26. Robbins CT (1983) Wildlife feeding and nutrition. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Tinley KL (1969) Dik-dik Madoqua kirkii in South West Africa: notes on distribution, ecology and behavior. Madoqua 1:7–33Google Scholar
  28. Tilson RL, Tilson JW (1986) Population turnover in a monogamous antelope (Madoqua kirkii) in Namibia. J Mammal 67:610–613Google Scholar
  29. Sinclair ARE (1977) The African buffalo. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  30. Westoby M (1974) An analysis of diet selection by large generalist herbivores. Am Nat 108:290–304Google Scholar
  31. Westoby M (1978) What are the biological bases of varied diets? Am Nat 112:627–631Google Scholar
  32. Willig MR, Lacher TE (1991) Food selection of a tropical mammalian folivore in relation to leaf-nutrient content. J Mammal 72:314–321Google Scholar
  33. Wong SC (1990) Elevated atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 and plant growth. II. Non-structural carbohydrate content in cottonplants and its effect on growth parameters. Photosynth Res 23:171–180Google Scholar
  34. Yalden DW (1978) A revision of the dik-diks of the subgenus Madoqua (Madoqua). Monit Zool Ital Suppl 11:245–264Google Scholar
  35. Zar JH (1984) Biostatistical analysis. Prentice-Hall, New JerseyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martha Bertha Manser
    • 1
  • Peter Nicolas Meade Brotherton
    • 2
  1. 1.Zoologisches Institut der UniversitätBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Large Animal Research Group, Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeEngland

Personalised recommendations