Feeding ecology and diet

The Hippotraginae are primarily grazers, although several species also browse during the dry season, while desert and semidesert species supplement a basic diet of grass with food such as acacia seed pods, wild melons, cucumbers, tubers, and bulbs.

The addax is adapted to coarse food and the absence of water in its desert habitat. It can apparently sense patches of

Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) mating interaction. (Photo by K & K Ammann. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) running on the Etosha Plain, Etosha, Namibia. (Photo by J & D Bartlett. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

vegetation at long distance and obtains sufficient water from its food. The scimitar-horned oryx eats a variety of grasses and forbs, utilizing plants with relatively high water and protein content. Because of its ability to locate these plants, and to physiologically conserve water, it is capable of going for long periods without drinking. The gemsbok can go without water for several days, but drinks at streams and waterholes when water is available. Oryx are experts at finding water and often dig into dried riverbeds to access ground water. Roan and sable are mainly grazers, but will also browse, particularly during the dry season.

The mountain reedbuck is adapted to a coarse, fibrous diet and can go for long periods without water. The other reed-buck species, and the waterbuck, predominantly graze on grasses and reed shoots. Lechwe eat mainly grasses, but also eat sedges and other semi-aquatic plants, and often graze in water up to shoulder height. Pukus also predominantly eat grasses. The gray rhebok predominantly browses on shrubs and forbs.

Wildebeest eat grass, but the black wildebeest will browse during the winter. Blue wildebeest prefer areas of short grass, especially that sprouting on burnt areas or after rain. The sass-abies are almost exclusively grazers, while the impala is an intermediate mixed feeder, largely grazing in the rains, but often browsing extensively in the dry season.

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