The evolution of phylogenetic differences in the efficiency of digestion in ruminants

Pérez-Barbería, F.J., Elston, D.A., Gordon, I.J., and Illius, A.W. (2004) The evolution of phylogenetic differences in the efficiency of digestion in ruminants. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 271 (1543). pp. 1081-1090.

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Abstract

This study investigates, for the first time (to our knowledge) for any animal group, the evolution of phylogenetic differences in fibre digestibility across a wide range of feeds that differ in potential fibre digestibility (fibre to lignin ratio) in ruminants. Data, collated from the literature, were analysed using a linear mixed model that allows for different sources of random variability, covariates and fixed effects, as well as controlling for phylogenetic relatedness. This approach overcomes the problem of defining boundaries to separate different ruminant feeding styles (browsers, mixed feeders and grazers) by using two covariates that describe the browser-grazer continuum (proportion of grass and proportion of browse in the natural diet of a species). The results indicate that closely related species are more likely to have similar values of fibre digestibility than species that are more distant in the phylogenetic tree. Body mass did not have any significant effect on fibre digestibility. Fibre digestibility is estimated to increase with the proportion of grass and to decrease with the proportion of browse in the natural diet that characterizes the species. We applied an evolutionary model to infer rates of evolution and ancestral states of fibre digestibility; the model indicates that the rate of evolution of fibre digestibility accelerated across time. We suggest that this could be caused by a combination of increasing competition among ruminant species and adaptation to diets rich in fibre, both related to climatically driven environmental changes in the past few million years.

Item ID: 42560
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: browser, grazer, phylogeny, evolution, digestibility, diet
Funders: Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD)
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2016 07:43
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0702 Animal Production > 070204 Animal Nutrition @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0604 Genetics > 060411 Population, Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics @ 50%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8304 Pasture, Browse and Fodder Crops > 830499 Pasture, Browse and Fodder Crops not elsewhere classified @ 50%
83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8303 Livestock Raising > 830399 Livestock Raising not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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