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Acta Theriologica

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 399–410 | Cite as

Seasonal variation in the diet of wild rabbitsOryctolagus cuniculus on a semiarid Atlantic island (Alegranza, Canarian Archipelago)

  • María C. Martín
  • Patricia Marrero
  • Manuel Nogales
Article

Abstract

The diet of the wild rabbitOryctolagus cuniculus (Linnaeus, 1758) on Alegranza Island (Canary Islands) was studied by microhistological examination of faecal samples. We compared the presence of each food-plant species in the faeces across a year in comparison with plant availability. Two areas were studied, Llano de la Vega and La Caldera. At the first site,Suaeda vera andChenoleoides tomentosa were the most common plants, while at the latter it wasEuphorbia regis-jubae. In general, species belonging to the Chenopodiaceae were most commonly eaten by rabbits. Plants such asChenoleoides tomentosa andSalsola vermiculata were most important in the diet in every season. Levin’s niche-breadth was broader across the seasons in the study site of La Caldera than at Llano de la Vega. Furthermore, this parameter yielded the highest values (broadest niche) during the spring at both sites. Most important plants eaten by rabbits showed green vegetative parts through all seasons. Rabbits selected some plants independently of their availability, even in this reduced insular environment. The feeding behaviour of rabbits in Alegranza, selecting certain species, must have had important consequences on the composition and distribution of the vegetation over the years. This negative effect on island vegetation has been shown to occur on many oceanic islands of the world where rabbits have been introduced.

Key words

Oryctolagus cuniculus food selection plant availability seasonal variation microhistological analysis Canary Islands 

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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Bialowieza, Poland 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • María C. Martín
    • 1
  • Patricia Marrero
    • 1
  • Manuel Nogales
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología Animal (Zoología)Universidad de La LagunaTenerife, Canary IslandsSpain

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