Australian Mammalogy Australian Mammalogy Society
Journal of the Australian Mammal Society
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Multiple scales of diet selection by brush-tailed rock-wallabies (Petrogale penicillata)

Katherine D. Tuft A C , Mathew S. Crowther A B and Clare McArthur A

A School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

B Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: katherine.tuft@australianwildlife.org

Australian Mammalogy 33(2) 169-180 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AM10041
Submitted: 11 November 2010  Accepted: 26 February 2011   Published: 12 September 2011

Abstract

Detailed data on diet and diet selection helps to predict how species will respond to changes in their environment. We measured the diet of brush-tailed rock-wallabies (Petrogale penicillata) using microscopic examination of plant cuticle fragments in faeces over two years from three populations across New South Wales: Warrumbungles in the central west, Curracabundi in the New England Tablelands, and Kangaroo Valley south of Sydney. Diet was analysed at the level of plant functional groups for all three populations, then in more detail at the plant species level in the Warrumbungles. Diet selection was measured by comparing diets with vegetation biomass. Across all three populations, rock-wallaby diet comprised 10–40% grass, 30–50% browse, 12–45% forbs and minor quantities of orchid/lilies and sedges. Rock-wallabies selected food resources on multiple scales by combining a generalist feeding strategy at the broad spatial scale (across populations) with a more specialist strategy for particular plant species at the fine spatial scale (within one population).

Additional keywords: faecal analysis, foraging, herbivore, niche breadth, refuge-dependence.


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