Effects of plant defenses and water availability on seasonal foraging preferences of the Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana)

Elsita M. Kiekebusch, Burt P. Kotler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The study of herbivore patch use has implications for herbivore habitat quality assessment, foraging behaviors, species interactions, and coexistence in patchy environments. This research focuses on the comparison of the effects of two qualitatively different plant defenses, mechanical (thorns) and chemical (tannins), on ibex foraging preferences during different seasons of the year. The occurrence of both chemical and mechanical plant defenses were experimentally manipulated in artificial resource patches, in addition to water availability. Ibex foraging preferences were quantified using giving-up densities during four separate fieldwork sessions in each of the seasons of the year at cliff sites overlooking the Zin Valley of the Negev Highlands. Both mechanical and chemical plant defenses significantly hindered ibex food intake overall. Mechanical and chemical defenses acted as substitutable defenses, meaning that their combined effects were not greater than additive. There were strong seasonal patterns of the amount of food consumed by ibex, further corroborated by comparison to rainfall levels. Seasonality also interacted with the effectiveness of plant defenses. Thorns were especially ineffective in summer, whereas tannins were most effective in spring. Decreases in seasonal food availability and increased marginal value of energy for ibex may have resulted in thorn ineffectiveness, while seasonal changes in the emergence of young foliage may have resulted in the greater springtime tannin effectiveness. Water was not found to mitigate the detrimental effects of tannins through dilution. The implications for decreased constraints on selective pressures on ibex due to the substitutability of plant defenses are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-137
Number of pages10
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Nubian Ibex
  • foraging behavior
  • giving-up density
  • herbivore patch use
  • plant defenses
  • resource complementarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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