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Search path of a fossorial herbivore, Geomys bursarius, foraging in structurally complex plant communities

May 1, 1990

The influence of habitat patchiness and unpalatable plants on the search path of the plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius) was examined in outdoor enclosures. Separate experiments were used to evaluate how individual animals explored (by tunnel excavation) enclosures free of plants except for one or more dense patches of a palatable plant (Daucus carota), a dense patch of an unpalatable species (Pastinaca sativa) containing a few palatable plants (D. carota), or a relatively sparse mixture of palatable (D. carota) and unpalatable (Raphanus sativus) species. Only two of eight individuals tested showed the predicted pattern of concentrating search effort in patches of palatable plants. The maintenance of relatively high levels of effort in less profitable sites may reflect the security afforded food resources by the solitary social system and fossorial lifestyle of G. bursarius. Unpalatable plants repelled animals under some conditions, but search paths in the sparsely planted mixed-species treatment suggest animals can use visual or other cues to orient excavations. Evidence supporting area-restricted search was weak. More information about the use of visual cues by G. bursarius and the influence of experience on individual search mode is needed for refining current models of foraging behavior in this species.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1990
Title Search path of a fossorial herbivore, <i>Geomys bursarius</i>, foraging in structurally complex plant communities
DOI 10.2307/1382165
Authors Douglas C. Andersen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Mammalogy
Series Number
Index ID 70124364
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization