Research ArticleECOLOGY

Seasonal dietary changes increase the abundances of savanna herbivore species

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Science Advances  02 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 40, eabd2848
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd2848

Abstract

African savannas are home to the world’s last great megafaunal communities, but despite ongoing population declines, we only poorly understand the constraints on savanna herbivore abundances. Seasonal diet shifts (except migration) have received little attention, despite a diversity of possible dietary strategies. Here, we first formulate two theoretical models that predict that both mixed feeding and migratory grazing increase population sizes. These predictions are borne out in comprehensive data across African savanna parks: Mixed feeders are the most abundant herbivores in Africa, alongside a few migratory grazer populations. Overall, clear mixed-feeder dominance may reflect a historical pattern or may instead mirror a general global decline in specialists. Regardless, mixed feeders dominate the savannas of the present and future.

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