Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Selection of Prey by Size in Ningaui Yvonneae

AP Woolnough and SM Carthew

Australian Journal of Zoology 44(3) 319 - 326
Published: 1996


The small dasyurid marsupial, Ningaui yvonneae, feeds opportunistically on invertebrates dominated by the orders Hymenoptera, Coleoptera and Araneae, but is capable of, and will, consume vertebrates such as skinks. When presented with a choice of prey N. yvonneae exhibited a strong preference for prey items on the basis of size. It consistently selected small prey items over large prey items. Small prey items represented the most energy-efficient prey option as the ningaui can more efficiently capture, subdue and consume them than it can larger prey. The relationship between prey size and handling time was exponential, indicating that there is an upper limit to the ability of N. yvonneae to process prey. Moreover, smaller cockroaches provided greater energy gain than larger ones, indicating that the costs of eating larger cockroaches energetically outweighed the energy return. These results are in agreement with optimal foraging theory.

© CSIRO 1996

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