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

Watter, Kurt and Baxter, Greg and Brennan, Michael and Pople, Tony and Murray, Peter ORCID: (2020) Seasonal diet preferences of chital deer in the northern Queensland dry tropics, Australia. The Rangeland Journal, 42 (3). pp. 211-220. ISSN 1036-9872


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.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2021 04:45
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2021 22:30
Uncontrolled Keywords: Axis axis, diet, forage, grasses, introduced species, seasonality
Fields of Research (2008): 07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0702 Animal Production > 070204 Animal Nutrition
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050206 Environmental Monitoring
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3003 Animal production > 300303 Animal nutrition
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1899 Other environmental management > 189999 Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
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