Diet selection in the green ringtail possum (Pseudochirops archeri): a specialist folivore in a diverse forest

Jones, Katherine M.W., Maclagan, Sarah J., and Krockenberger, Andrew K. (2006) Diet selection in the green ringtail possum (Pseudochirops archeri): a specialist folivore in a diverse forest. Austral Ecology, 31 (7). pp. 799-807.

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Abstract

This study investigated the feeding ecology of the green ringtail possum, Pseudochirops archeri (Pseudocheiridae) in a tropical rainforest with 94 plant species in the canopy. Over 50% of tree use was from only four tree species, Aleurites rockinghamensis, Ficus fraseri, Arytera divaricata and Ficus copiosa. These species were used significantly more frequently than would be expected if tree species were selected randomly in proportion to their relative abundance in the forest. Conversely, 88 other tree species present were used less frequently than expected. Possums also favoured particular individual trees within some of the preferred tree species. In 91% of feeding observations, possums consumed mature leaves only. The availability of young leaves, flowers and fruit varied throughout the year, with a peak in availability of these resources during the early wet season. By primarily selecting mature leaves, green ringtail possums reduce their dependence on seasonally variable resources. We suggest that green ringtail possums should be considered as specialist folivores, focusing on only a few of the tree species available, possibly due to advantages associated with limiting the number of plant secondary metabolites in their diet. Furthermore, they favour certain individual trees within species, perhaps due to intraspecific variation in plant secondary metabolites or nutrient content, behaviour that has been well established in eucalypt folivores. We conclude that green ringtail possums are highly specialized in their feeding ecology, limiting their diet to a small number of continuously available food items.

Item ID: 3748
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1442-9993
Keywords: diet selection; folivore; Pseudochirops archeri; rainforest; specialist
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2009 01:08
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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