Diets of Southern African Bovidae: Stable Isotope Evidence Academic Article uri icon


  • Although bovids have been studied for decades, debate still exists about their diets. To address this problem, we examined bovid dietary ecology through analysis of stable carbon isotopes. We analyzed tooth enamel, bone collagen, and hair from 312 individual bovids, representing 27 species from southern Africa. Although dietary information from the literature is usually supported by this technique, our results and the literature are sometimes highly divergent. For instance, our results indicate that Taurotragus oryx and Raphicerus campestris eat less grass than is widely believed. Furthermore, contrary to most theoretical expectations, our data indicate no relationship between body size and percentage of monocots consumed by southern African Bovidae. Although many researchers have abandoned the idea that bovid soft-tissue anatomy is strongly indicative of diet, we demonstrate a strong relationship between the percentage of grass in a bovid's diet and several hard-tissue craniodental indices.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Mammalogy

author list (cited authors)

  • Sponheimer, M., Lee-Thorp, J. A., DeRuiter, D. J., Smith, J. M., van der Merwe, N. J., Reed, K., ... Marcus, W.

complete list of authors

  • Sponheimer, M||Lee-Thorp, JA||DeRuiter, DJ||Smith, JM||van der Merwe, NJ||Reed, K||Grant, CC||Ayliffe, LK||Robinson, TF||Heidelberger, C||Marcus, W

publication date

  • May 2003