Climate change and leaf-eating mammals


Many wild herbivores show seasonal preferences for different plants or plant parts. Often this is attributed to seasonal availability. However, ambient temperature may play an equally important role in the foraging decisions of herbivores. For example, during periods of cooler weather, extra energy is probably required for thermoregulation. There is also some evidence that ambient temperature affects the ability of herbivores to deal with toxic compounds, such as those found in many plants. In this case animals may be unable to eat some plants at certain times of the year and may be forced to incorporate other foods into their diet. To date, the role of ambient temperature has not often been considered in studies of diet selection. However, an understanding is becoming more critical in order to predict potential dietary shifts by herbivores in response to global climate change. The proposed honours project will ask the question