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Morphological Correlates of Dietary Resource Partitioning in the African Bovidae

Lillian M. Spencer
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1382355 448-471 First published online: 19 May 1995


Members of the African Bovidae exhibit dietary resource partitioning, which presumably allows coexistence of many species with herbivorous diets. Levels of resource partitioning based on diet include primary food preference, habitat preference, and feeding-height preference. Morphological correlates of these levels of resource partitioning were sought in the skull and vertebral column of 33 bovid species. A quantitative morphometric study of the mandible, skull, and thoracic vertebrae in a large sample of bovids (n > 700) explores these correlates using video-image analysis. Results of this study indicate that many significant morphological differences exist among bovids that have a diet of either grass, dicots, or some combination of these two primary resources. In addition, some variables significantly distinguished bovids with different habitat and feeding-height preferences. These morphological correlates crossed taxonomic boundaries and, in many cases, were related to the structural properties of the herbivorous diet.

Key words
  • Bovidae
  • diet
  • feeding apparatus
  • resource partitioning
  • Africa

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