Food overlap between Mongolian gazelles and livestock in Omnogobi, southern Mongolia

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Botanical and particle size compositions of the feces of sympatric Mongolian gazelles, sheep/goats, and horses collected in southern Mongolia in autumn 2002 were analyzed. The botanical composition of Mongolian gazelles was similar to that of sheep/goats where dicotyledonous plants (64.6% for Mongolian gazelles, 65.6% for sheep/goats), particularly woody fibers were important (39.5% for Mongolian gazelles, 19.5% for sheep/goats). In contrast, horse feces were exclusively composed of graminoids (93.2%). Consequently, food overlap was great between Mongolian gazelles and sheep/goats (Pianka's index: 0.977) but was small between Mongolian gazelles and horses (0.437) and sheep/goats and horses (0.421). Particle size distributions were also similar between Mongolian gazelles and sheep/goats, whereas they were different between horses and Mongolian gazelles and horses and sheep/goats. These results support our expectation based on the Jarman-Bell principle. Although interspecific competition cannot be inferred from a mere food overlap, our analyses suggest that sheep and goats are potential competitors for Mongolian gazelles. Therefore, the increase in the numbers of domestic sheep/goats might pose a risk for Mongolian gazelle populations.

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