Journal of Arid Land

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 482–491 | Cite as

Diet characteristics of wild sheep (Ovis ammon darwini) in the Mengluoke Mountains, Xinjiang, China

  • Bang Li
  • Wenxuan Xu
  • David A. Blank
  • Muyang Wang
  • Weikang Yang


In most arid and semi-arid regions of the world, domestic livestock and native wildlife share pastures, and their competition for forage and habitat is thought to be a serious conservation issue. Moreover, unmanaged grazing by livestock can cause the population decline in wild ungulates. The diet of an animal species is a determining aspect of its ecological niche, and investigating its diet has been one of the initial steps in basic ecology study of a new species. To get an approximate understanding of the interspecific food relationships of argali (Ovis ammon darwini) between sexes, and sympatric domestic sheep and goats, we compared the diet compositions and diet-overlaps among these herbivores, i.e., male argali, female argali, domestic sheep, and domestic goats in the Mengluoke Mountains of Xinjiang, China by using micro-histological fecal analysis. Female argali, male argali, domestic sheep and domestic goat primarily consumed forbs (43.31%±4.86%), grass (36.02%±9.32%), forbs (41.01%±9.18%), and forbs (36.22%±10.61%), respectively in warm season. All these animals consumed mostly shrubs (female argali: 36.47%±7.56%; male argali: 47.28%±10.75%; domestic sheep: 40.46%±9.56%; and domestic goats: 42.88%±9.34%, respectively) in cold season. The diet-overlaps were relatively high among all species in cold season with values ranging from 0.88 to 0.94. Furthermore, Schoener’s index measured between each possible pair of 4 herbivores increased from the warm season to the cold season. The results illustrate that the high degree of diet-overlap of argali and domestic livestock (sheep and goat) may pose a threat to the survival of the argali in cold season. From the viewpoint of rangeland management and conservation of the endangered argali, the numbers of domestic sheep and goats should be limited in cold season to reduce food competition.


argali fecal analysis food habits competition diet-overlap 


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The research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Project of China (2016YFC0503307), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31661143019, 4151101357, U1303301). We give our thanks to Dahuangshuiquan Border Police Station and Forestry Police Station of Mori Kazak Autonomous County, Xinjiang, China for supporting our research. And we appreciate the field work conducted by WU Ke and ZHAO Xianxian.


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Copyright information

© Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bang Li
    • 1
  • Wenxuan Xu
    • 1
  • David A. Blank
    • 1
    • 2
  • Muyang Wang
    • 1
  • Weikang Yang
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  2. 2.Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central AsiaBishkekKyrgyzstan

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