|Author(s)||J. T. du Toit, C. A. Yetman|
We compared the diurnal activity budgets of four syntopic species of African browsing ruminant that differ widely in body size. These were concurrently studied through all phases of the seasonal cycle, in the same area, using the same methods. We tested five predictions from the literature on how body size is expected to influence the behaviour of tropical ungulates: the smallest members of the browsing ruminant guild exhibit (1) the lowest allocation of diurnal time to activity; (2) the greatest hour-to-hour variation in activity and resting time; (3) the greatest reduction in activity time during the hottest days; (4) the least change between wet and the dry seasons in the ratio of feeding: ruminating time; and (5) the greatest time budget allocation to vigilance. Prediction 1 was supported in that the smaller species spent less time being active during the day. Prediction 2 was also supported in that the smaller species were more variable in their relative allocations of time to activity and resting through successive hours of the day. Contrary to Prediction 3, however, the greatest reduction in activity with increasing temperature was found for the largest guild member. The smaller species can achieve their daily food intake requirements by feeding at night and in the cool hours of the day, while the larger species have to feed during all hours of the day and are thus more susceptible to thermoregulatory constraints on foraging. Prediction 4 was partially upheld in that the largest species (giraffe) displayed the widest variation in feeding: ruminating time through the seasonal cycle. Prediction 5 was not supported, indicating that multiple factors interact with body size in determining vigilance behaviour.
Key words: Ungulate activity, Scaling, Foraging patterns, Savanna ungulates, Kruger National Park
Author: J. T. du Toit, C. A. Yetman