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Article Title

Prairie Dog Food Preference and the Photosynthetic Pathway-Selective Herbivory Hypothesis

Volume

89

Issue

3

First Page

97

Last Page

108

Abstract

Black-tail prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) at the Tulsa Zoological Park were offered diets consisting of C3 and C4 plant species under conditions of controlled food species abundance and availability, in order to test whether the photosynthetic pathway-selective herbivory hypothesis is predictive of foraging behavior. The C4 species tested were Setaria italica, Zea mays, Eragrostis curvula, and Salsola kali. The C3 species tested were Arachis hypogea, Daucus carota, Helianthus annus, and Lactuca sativa. Four experiments were performed. I. Each food was presented separately to test whether C. ludovicianus would eat each species. II. All four C3 species were presented simultaneously to test for preferences within the C3 plant food group. III. All four C4 species were presented simulta- neously to test for preferences within the C4 food group. IV. Finally, all four C3 and all four C4 species were presented simultaneously to test for preferences between C3 and C4 food groups. Data demonstrated that prairie dogs have sig- nificant food preferences within both the C3 and C4 species groups tested. However, predictions of the photosynthetic pathway-selective herbivory hypothesis were not met. No statistical preference for either C3 or C4 species existed.