Ecological Research

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 529–538 | Cite as

Spatial and elevational variation in fruiting phenology of a deciduous oak (Quercus crispula) and its effect on foraging behavior of the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus)

  • Ami Nakajima
  • Shinsuke Koike
  • Takashi Masaki
  • Takuya Shimada
  • Chinatsu Kozakai
  • Yui Nemoto
  • Koji Yamazaki
  • Koichi Kaji
Original Article


In habitats with elevational gradients, differences in the fruiting phenology of a single key food resource may affect the feeding behavior of an animal. The objectives of the present study were to assess (1) whether or not fruiting phenology and characteristics of Quercus crispula acorns differed with changes in altitude (900–1,400 m asl) and area; (2) when bears foraged acorns in relation to their phenological development; and (3) where bears engaged in acorn foraging behavior with respect to acorn phenology. No difference in the fruiting phenology of acorns at various altitudes and locations was found, with the exception of changes in color and abscission period. Acorn abscission period occurred later at a site with an elevation of 1,200 m in Tochigi and at another with an elevation of 1,400 m in Gunma, making the available energy of acorns in the tree canopy (AET) greater and available for a longer time period at those two sites. Foraging of acorns by bears was observed at sites of moderate to high altitude between late September and mid-October. A threshold date when acorns became suitable for foraging by bears could not be identified, as the size and nutritional value of acorns increased continuously. Foraging activity of bears observed at moderate and high altitude sites corresponded with locations where AET was available in greater amounts and for a longer period of time for some sites; however, the small sample size precluded accurate assessment.


Feeding habit Acorn Quercus crispula Elevational gradient Japan 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Nobuo Kanzaki for his encouragement; Dr. Mitsue Shibata for teaching us to climb trees; Dr. Akiko Takahashi for helping with chemical analysis; Mr. Yui Nemoto and Mr. Shinichi Haneo for providing information on the study area; Mr. Ikeda Takashi for helping with field work; Mr. Yukio Goto for advice on tree climbing; Dr. Masashi Kiyota for helping with statistical analysis; and colleagues in the laboratory for supporting our work. This study was partly funded by the Ministry of Environment, Japan (“The study project on the Japanese black bears’ mass intrusion into human settlements”) and the Grant-in Aid for Japan Society of the Promotion of Science Fellows (No. 197287).


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ami Nakajima
    • 1
  • Shinsuke Koike
    • 1
  • Takashi Masaki
    • 2
  • Takuya Shimada
    • 3
  • Chinatsu Kozakai
    • 1
  • Yui Nemoto
    • 1
  • Koji Yamazaki
    • 4
  • Koichi Kaji
    • 1
  1. 1.Tokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan
  2. 2.Forestry and Forest Products Research InstituteTsukubaJapan
  3. 3.Tohoku CenterForestry and Forest Products Research InstituteMoriokaJapan
  4. 4.Zoological LaboratoryIbaraki Nature MuseumBandoJapan

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