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A Histologic Technique for Determining Feeding Habits of Small Herbivores

Elver H. Voth and Hugh C. Black
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 37, No. 2 (Apr., 1973), pp. 223-231
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3798908
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3798908
Page Count: 9
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A Histologic Technique for Determining Feeding Habits of Small Herbivores
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Abstract

The mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa) was used in a feeding experiment involving 20 species of vascular plants. A foliar epidermal digestibility characteristic was measured. A fecal recognition item was a flat epidermal fragment that measured at least 0.1 mm in at least one direction. The number of recognition items per gram of dry weight of each plant eaten in captivity was determined and divided into a standard number, which was the number (11.0) of fragments counted per gram (dry weight) of swordfern (Polystichum munitum) ingested. The resulting conversion factor was called an equivalence factor. The equivalence factors varied through a 15-fold range-from 0.8 for red alder (Alnus oregona) to 12.2 for western spring beauty (Montia sibirica). The conversion factors increase the accuracy of relative volumetric estimates of food intake based on histologic analysis of fecal samples collected in the field. Conversion factors can be predicted by correlating equivalence factors with moisture content and reading factors for unknown plants from a line of regression when the percentage dry weight of the plant has been determined.

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