Diets of southern African Bovidae: Stable isotope evidence

Matt Sponheimer, Julia A. Lee-Thorp, Darryl J. DeRuiter, Jeannette M. Smith, Nikolaas J. Van Der Merwe, Kaye Reed, C. C. Grant, Linda K. Ayliffe, Todd F. Robinson, Cory Heidelberger, Warren Marcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


Although bovids have been studied for decades, debate still exists about their diets. To address this problem, we examined bovid dietary ecology through analysis of stable carbon isotopes. We analyzed tooth enamel, bone collagen, and hair from 312 individual bovids, representing 27 species from southern Africa. Although dietary information from the literature is usually supported by this technique, our results and the literature are sometimes highly divergent. For instance, our results indicate that Taurotragus oryx and Raphicerus campestris eat less grass than is widely believed. Furthermore, contrary to most theoretical expectations, our data indicate no relationship between body size and percentage of monocots consumed by southern African Bovidae. Although many researchers have abandoned the idea that bovid soft-tissue anatomy is strongly indicative of diet, we demonstrate a strong relationship between the percentage of grass in a bovid's diet and several hard-tissue craniodental indices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-479
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2003


  • Africa
  • Bovid
  • Bovidae
  • Carbon isotopes
  • Diet
  • Morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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