Date of Award:

1988

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Natural Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Frederick D. Provenza

Abstract

I studied the acquisition of foraging skills by lambs eating shrub or grass in three experiments. The general approach was to isolate those skills involved in prehending forage from those related to the acceptance of novel foods. Treatment lambs received 15 times more exposure to grass or shrub than did control lambs. Lambs were tested in 2.5 x 2.5 meter monocultures of shrub or grass 5 min/d, on two separate occasions. Height, bulk density and spatial arrangement of plant material were controlled during testing. In Experiment 1, I studied the acquisition of foraging skills by lambs on monocultures of shrubs. I found that inexperienced lambs ingested less forage per unit time than experienced lambs because they had less developed prehension skills. Lambs were more successful at plucking individual leaves than breaking twigs from branches or stripping 1 eaves. Lambs emphasized prehension patterns that were most successful. In Experiment 2, I explored the extent to which foraging skills gained on shrub or grass are specific to shrub or grass. Grass-experienced lambs were more successful at prehending and ingesting grass than were shrub experienced lambs. No statistical differences were observed between shrub- and grass-experienced lambs at prehending and ingesting shrub although numerical values were higher for shrub- than grass-experienced lambs. I hypothesize that a relationship exists between plant form, prehension pattern and foraging experience. In Experiment 3, I studied the degree to which lambs experienced with grass or shrub vary in their ability to prehend and ingest vegetative and flowering grass. Grass- and shrub-experienced lambs ingested more flowering than vegetative grass per unit time. Grass-experienced lambs were more efficient than shrub-experienced lambs at prehending and ingesting vegetative and flowering grass. Shrub-experienced lambs experienced more difficulty at prehending flowering compared to vegetative grass while grass-experienced lambs did not.

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