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1 January 2017 Diet composition, quality and overlap of sympatric American pronghorn and gemsbok
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Species with a long evolutionary history of sympatry often have mechanisms for resource partitioning that reduce competition. However, introduced non-native ungulates often compete with native ungulates and competitive effects can be exacerbated in arid regions due to low primary productivity. Our objectives were to characterize diet composition, quality, and overlap between American pronghorn Antilocapra americana and introduced non-native gemsbok Oryx gazella in southcentral New Mexico, USA. Severe drought occurred between 2010 and 2011, which allowed us to evaluate drought impacts on diet composition, quality, and overlap. Using feces collected from each species, we assessed diet composition and overlap with microhistological analysis and diet quality using fecal nitrogen (FN) and fecal 2,6-diaminopimelic acid (FDAPA). Pronghorn diet was primarily composed of shrubs in the cool—dry season (64.5%) then shifted to forbs in the warm—dry (64.7%) and warm—wet (54.1%) seasons. Pronghorn diet also shifted to shrubs during drought (50.7%). Gemsbok diets were evenly distributed across forage types. Fifty-three percent of the species of plants consumed by pronghorn and gemsbok were shared; diet overlap averaged 0.44 ± 0.06 (SE) and 0.49 ± 0.06 during the warm—dry seasons of 2010 and 2011, respectively. During drought, key forage species shared between pronghorn and gemsbok included yucca Yucca spp., prickly pear Opuntia spp., globemallow Sphaeralcea coccinea and horsenettle Solanum elaeagnifolium, comprising 50% of the pronghorn and 40% of the gemsbok diets. Fecal nitrogen and FDAPA decreased in pronghorn by 26% and 27% between the warm—dry season of 2010 (non-drought) and the warm—dry season of 2011 (drought), respectively. Drought had little effect on dietary quality for gemsbok. Gemsbok can use forage with lower nutritional content giving them an advantage over pronghorn, particularly during drought periods. Pronghorn are more dependent upon precipitation, which may be important to consider in light of increasing drought frequency associated with climate change.

This article is a US government work This is an Open Access article This work is licensed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY). The license permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
James W. Cain, Mindi M. Avery, Colleen A. Caldwell, Laurie B. Abbott, and Jerry L. Holechek "Diet composition, quality and overlap of sympatric American pronghorn and gemsbok," Wildlife Biology 2017(4), (1 January 2017).
Accepted: 29 November 2016; Published: 1 January 2017

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