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Seasonal diet preferences of chital deer in the northern Queensland dry tropics, Australia

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Watter, K., Baxter, G., Brennan, M., Pople, A. R. and Murray, P. (2020) Seasonal diet preferences of chital deer in the northern Queensland dry tropics, Australia. The Rangeland Journal, 42 (3). pp. 211-220.

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ20015

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/RJ20015


Chital deer (Axis axis) were introduced to the Burdekin dry tropics of north Queensland, Australia, in the late 1800s. Here rainfall and plant growth are highly seasonal and a nutritional bottleneck for grazing animals occurs annually before the wet season. This study describes the seasonal changes in diet and diet preference of chital in this seasonally-variable environment. Rumen samples were taken from 162 deer from two sites over the wet and dry seasons of two consecutive years and sorted macroscopically for identification. Relative seasonal availability of plant groups was estimated using step point sampling of areas grazed by chital. Chital alter their diet seasonally according to availability and plant phenology. Chital utilised 42 plant genera including grasses, forbs, subshrubs, shrubs, trees and litter. Grass consumption ranged from 53% of biomass intake during the dry season to 95% during the wet season. The predominance of grass in the wet season diet exceeded relative availability, indicating a strong preference. Although grass contributed more than half of the dry season diet it was the least preferred plant group, given availability, and the least actively growing. Shrubs were the preferred plant type in the dry season, and least subject to seasonal senescence. Composition and quantity of seasonal pastures vary markedly in north Queensland, and chital alter their diet by consuming those plants most actively growing. The increased dry season intake of non-grass forage appears to be a strategy to limit the detriment resulting from the progressive deterioration in the quality of grass.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Biosecurity Queensland
Keywords:Axis axis, diet, forage, grasses, introduced species, seasonality.
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Animal control and ecology
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural ecology (General)
Animal culture > Deer
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Live Archive:22 Sep 2020 01:43
Last Modified:08 Dec 2021 23:45

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