Evol Ecol Res 3: 221-230 (2001)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Evolutionary transitions among feeding styles and habitats in ungulates

F. Javier Pérez-Barbería,1,2 Iain J. Gordon1 and Carlos Nores2

1The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK and 2Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Ordenación del Territorio, 13 Independencia, Oviedo 33071, Spain

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: j.perez-barberia@mluri.sari.ac.uk


Using a phylogeny of extant species with a maximum likelihood model of trait evolution, the most likely pathway that led to the current diversification of feeding styles in the Ungulata is described and related to their habitat use. Habitat use and feeding style are intimately associated in extant species; grazing and mixed-feeder species are more likely to use open habitats than browsing species. From the ancestral state of a closed-habitat dweller/browser, the acquisition of an open-habitat/grazer state is likely to have occurred through a three-step transition. In the first step, the ancestral ungulate species evolved a mixed-feeder feeding style but retained the closed-habitat condition. Then, once the species had a mixed diet, it evolved to occupy open habitats. Finally, a grazer feeding style evolved with the open-habitat state being retained. The mixed-feeder state is a flexible evolutionary state that acts as a link between closed and open habitats. These findings are discussed from a comparative palaeoecological perspective.

Keywords: browser, diet, grazer, habitat use.

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