Feeding ecology and foraging behaviour of the Namib Desert golden mole, Eremitalpa granti namibensis (Chrysochloridae)

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Abstract

Eremitalpa granti namibensis is a small, blind insectivorous mole endemic to the sand dunes of the Namib Desert. Unlike most other subterranean mammals, E. g. namibensis lacks a permanent burrow system and forages for its prey on the dune surface at night. This study examines the natural dietary habits and foraging behaviour of E. g. namibensis in relation to resource abundance and distribution in the Namib dunes.

Stomach content analysis revealed termites as the major dietary item with other invertebrates being of only minor importance. Biomass of potential prey items was found to be low and food resources patchily distributed. It is suggested that desert moles opportunistically exploit a sedentary prey resource which occurs in patches of high concentrations, hence avoiding the energetic costs implicit in pursuing more mobile prey. Qualitative and quantitative descriptions of nocturnal foraging paths were undertaken so that searching behaviour could be related to the variation and distribution of food items. It is concluded that movement patterns of moles are effective in encountering localized areas of high prey concentrations and in minimizing energy expenditure in an energy-sparse environment.

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