Role of Species Diversity and Secondary Compound Complementarity on Diet Selection of Mediterranean Shrubs by Goats
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- Rogosic, J., Estell, R.E., Skobic, D. et al. J Chem Ecol (2006) 32: 1279. doi:10.1007/s10886-006-9084-1
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Goats foraging on Mediterranean shrubs containing secondary compounds (toxins) may consume a variety of shrubs that contain different phytotoxins, thereby increasing shrub intake and avoiding toxicosis. We conducted eight experiments to examine whether goats offered different mixtures of shrubs containing different phytotoxins (tannins and saponins) would consume more shrub biomass than goats offered one shrub a single phytotoxin (tannin or saponin). In the first three experiments, goats fed a mixture of three tannin-rich shrubs (Quercus ilex, Arbutus unedo, and Pistacia lentiscus) ate more foliage than goats offered only one shrub (23.2 vs. 10.7 g/kg BW; 25.2 vs. 13.4 g/kg BW, and 27.9 vs. 7.9 g/kg BW), regardless of tannin concentration in individual shrub species. Goats also consumed more foliage when offered the same three tannin-rich shrubs than when offered the saponin-rich shrub Hedera helix (25.4 vs. 8.0 g/kg BW). However, goats offered a mixture of the same three tannin-rich shrubs consumed less foliage than goats offered a mixture of two shrubs containing tannins and saponins: Quercus and Hedera (21.6 vs. 27.1 g/kg BW), Arbutus and Hedera (21.8 vs. 27.1 g/kg BW), and Pistacia and Hedera (19.7 vs. 22.0 g/kg BW). Comparison of intake of shrubs containing only tannins or saponins to intake of shrubs containing both tannins and saponins indicated that goats consumed more total biomass when fed with shrubs with both classes of compounds than with either tannins or saponins alone. Our results suggest that goats can increase intake of Mediterranean shrubs high in secondary compounds by selecting those with different classes of phytotoxins. Simultaneous ingestion of shrubs containing tannins and saponins may promote chemical interactions that inhibit toxic effects of these phytotoxins in the intestinal tract. In addition to complementary interactions between tannins and saponins, biological diversity within Mediterranean maquis vegetation also plays a positive role in increasing shrub intake by goats.