Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 351–358 | Cite as

Selection for Small Amounts of Hydrolysable Tannins by a Concentrate-Selecting Mammalian Herbivore

  • Hélène Verheyden-Tixier
  • Patrick Duncan


Although herbivores usually avoid plants with high concentrations of tannins, roe deer in natural habitats select tannin-rich plants. We tested the hypotheses that: (H1) roe do not seek tannins, rather they select for other (unmeasured) factors such as minerals or vitamins; and (H2) roe do select for tannins. Tame roe deer were offered a choice of food pellets to which hydrolyzable chestnut tannins had been added or control pellets. The daily consumption of pellets containing a high level of tannins (9.1%) was lower than consumption of control pellets. However, when offered medium level tannin pellets (3.8%), roe deer ate more tannin than control pellets. Moreover, the roe regulated their intake of these tannins closely. The regression of tannin intake versus total pellet intake across all the tests was linear and precise (r2 = 0.94): intake was about 28 g of tannin per kilogram of pellets eaten. We therefore reject H1 and suggest that roe can monitor tannin concentrations in their food, and regulate their intake precisely. The results suggest that a certain level of tannins induces no costs or that they provide a nutritional benefit for roe deer.

tannin diet herbivore roe deer 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aharoni, Y., Gilboa, N., and Silanikove, N. 1998. Models of suppressive effect of tannins. Analysis of the suppressive effect of tannins on ruminal degradation by compartmental models. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 71:251–267.Google Scholar
  2. Austin, P. J., Suchar, L. A., Robbins, C. T., and Hagerman, A. E. 1989. Tannin-binding proteins in saliva of deer and their absence in saliva of sheep and cattle. J. Chem. Ecol. 4:1335–1347.Google Scholar
  3. Bernays, E. A., Cooper Driver, G., and Bilgener, M. 1989. Herbivores and plant tannins. Adv. Ecol. Res. 19:263–302.Google Scholar
  4. Distel, R. A., and Provenza, F. D. 1991. Experience early in life affects voluntary intake of blackbrush by goats. J. Chem. Ecol. 17:431–450.Google Scholar
  5. Drozdz, A. 1979. Seasonal intake and digestibility of natural food by roe deer. Acta Theriol. 24:137–170.Google Scholar
  6. Duncan, P., Tixier, H., Hofmann, R. R., and Lechner-Doll, M. 1998. Feeding strategies and the physiology of digestion in roe deer, pp. 91-116, in R. Andersen, P. Duncan, and J. D. C. Linnell (eds). The European Roe Deer: The Biology of Success. Scandinavian University Press, Oslo.Google Scholar
  7. Fickel, J., Pitra, C., Joest, B. A., and Hofmann, R. R. 1999. A novel method to evaluate the relative tannin-binding capacities of salivary proteins. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 122:225–229.Google Scholar
  8. Hagerman, A. E., and Robbins, C. T. 1993. Specificity of tannin-binding salivary proteins relative to diet selection by mammals. Can. J. Zool. 71:628–633.Google Scholar
  9. Hagerman, A. E., Riedl, K. M., Jones, G. A., Sovik, K. N., Ritchard, N. T., Hartzfeld, P. W., and Riechel, T. L. 1998. High molecular weight plant polyphenolics (tannins) as biological antioxidants. J. Agric. Food Chem. 46:1887–1892.Google Scholar
  10. Hodgson, J., Niezen, J. H., Montossi, F., Liu, F. Y., and Butler, B. M. 1996. Comparative studies on animal performance and parasite infestation in sheep grazing Yorkshire fog, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue pastures. Proc. N.Z. Grassl. Assoc. 57:89–93.Google Scholar
  11. Liu, F. Y., Hodgson, J., and Barry, T. N. 1998. Effects of grazing sequence and condensed tannins on ingestive behaviour, herbage intake, and performance of lambs grazing Yorkshire fog pasture. N.Z. J. Agric. Res. 41:359–366.Google Scholar
  12. Robbins, C. T., Hanley, T. A., Hagerman, A. E., Hjeljord, O., Baker, D. L., Schwartz, C. C., and Mautz, W. W. 1987. Role of tannins in defending plants against ruminants: Reduction in protein availability. Ecology 68:98–107.Google Scholar
  13. Robbins, C. T., Hagerman, A. E., Austin, P. J., McArthur, C., and Hanley, T. A. 1991. Variation in mammalian physiological responses to a condensed tannin and its ecological implications. J. Mammal. 72:480–486.Google Scholar
  14. Schmidt, K. A., Brown, J. S., and Morgan, R. A. 1998. Plant defenses as complementary resources: a test with squirrels. Oikos 81:130–142.Google Scholar
  15. Terrill, T. H., Douglas, G. B., Foote, A. G., Purchas, R. W., Wilson, G. F., and Barry, T. N. 1992. Effect of CT upon body growth, wool growth and rumen metabolism in sheep grazing sulla (Hedysarum coronarium) and perennial pasture. J. Agric. Sci. 58:312–329.Google Scholar
  16. Tixier, H., Duncan, P., Scehovic, J., Yani, A., Gleizes, M., and Lila, M. 1997. Food selection by European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus): Effects of plant chemistry, and consequences for the nutritional value of their diets. J. Zool. London 242:229–245.Google Scholar
  17. Waterman, P. G., and Mole, S. 1994. Analysis of phenolic plant metabolites. Blackwell Scientific Publications. Oxford, UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hélène Verheyden-Tixier
    • 1
  • Patrick Duncan
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Institut de Recherche sur les Grands MammifèresCRA, ToulouseCastanet-TolosanFrance
  2. 2.Centre d'Études Biologiques de ChizéCentre National de la Recherche Scientifique, UPR 1934Beauvoir-sur-NiortFrance

Personalised recommendations