The effects of water on patch use by two Simpson Desert granivores (Corvus coronoides and Pseudomys hermannsburgensis)

Burt P. Kotler, Christopher R. Dickman, Joel S. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Water loss while foraging may affect the overall value of food to desert animals. When water is scarce, foragers may alter activity and shun certain types of food due to elevated water loss. When water is abundant, foragers can exploit food patches more thoroughly and remain active over a broader range of ambient conditions. In short, food and water may be complementary resources. The presence of water raises the marginal value of food, particularly those foods low in water content. We tested for the complementarity of food and water to foragers at a sand dune site in the Simpson Desert of arid Australia. To do so, we quantified patch exploitation of foragers in the presence or absence of bowls filled with water. In order to quantify patch use, we provisioned feeding trays with granulated peanuts mixed into a sand substrate. In these trays we measured giving-up densities (GUD; the amount of food left in a tray after a foraging bout) of diurnal (mostly Australian ravens, Corvus coronoides) and nocturnal foragers (mostly sandy inland mouse, Pseudomys hermannsburgensis). The presence of water affected the GUD of ravens but not of rodents. For the ravens, GUD dropped about 50% in response to added water. For ravens, water and food are strongly complementary. In addition, ravens had lower GUD in the open than the bush microhabitat, and lower GUD at the bottom than the tops of sand dunes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-578
Number of pages5
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1998


  • Arid Australia
  • Complementary resources
  • Foraging theory
  • Giving-up density
  • Granivory
  • Optimal patch use
  • Ravens
  • Rodents
  • Simpson Desert
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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