, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 383–389

Resource partitioning by ungulates on the Isle of Rhum

  • I. J. Gordon
  • A. W. Illius

DOI: 10.1007/BF00384318

Cite this article as:
Gordon, I.J. & Illius, A.W. Oecologia (1989) 79: 383. doi:10.1007/BF00384318


This paper describes the seasonal changes in vegetation community use by red deer, cattle, goats and ponies on the Isle of Rhum, Scotland. During the winter, when food resources were of low abundance and digestibility, the ungulates showed extensive resource partitioning. During the summer, when resource availability and digestibility was high, the grazing species, red deer, cattle and ponies congregated on the vegetation communities which contained high biomasses of a high quality resource, mesotrophic graminoids and forbs. Goats, with a digestive system adapted to dealing with browse, foraged primarily on the communities dominated by dwarf shrubs. The patterns of resource use in this group of ungulates are discussed in relation to competition; species had relatively exclusive esource use during periods of low food availability during tye winter and had a high degree of resource use overlap when food was abundant during the summer. This suggests that there was little competition for food during the summer and that exploitative competition for the high quality foods led to resource partitioning during the winter. Senarios are described which predict the pattern of resource use between two species (one competitively superior to the other on the preferred resource) utilizing mutually or exclusively preferred resources. A model developed by Illius and Gordon (1987), based on the allometry of metabolic requirements and bite size, is used to provide a mechanistic explanation for the observation that the red deer were able to exploit the high quality plant communities during the winter, whereas the cattle moved off to feed on poorer quality communities at this time.

Key words

Ungulate Seasonality Habitat use Competition Feeding strategies Resource partitioning 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. J. Gordon
    • 1
  • A. W. Illius
    • 2
  1. 1.Large Animal Research Group, Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Edinburgh School of AgricultureEdinburghScotland, UK
  3. 3.Macaulay Land Use Research InstitutePenicuikScotland, UK

Personalised recommendations