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Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 78 (3): 401-408, 2005
Obsessed with grasses? The case of mara Dolichotis patagonum (Caviidae: Rodentia)
The diet of mara (Dolichotis patagonum, Zimmeraman 1780) within the limits of Sierra de las Quijadas National Park (San Luis, Argentina) is described. Other studies regarding mara’s diet showed that mara, feeds on different species of grasses and shrubs. However, there is controversy regarding the proportions of these items in the diet or whether this proportion varies seasonally. Considering mara’s body size, anatomical features and physiology, we suggest that mara feeds on grasses in a greater proportion than shrubs and forbs. Moreover, giving that in this region precipitation varies considerably between seasons; it is also expected to find a correlation between the diet of mara and seasons. Fecal pellets of mara were collected during four periods including two dry, and two wet seasons. Relative frequency of each item in scats was determined by microhistological analysis. Results support the hypothesis that mara shows preference for grasses, despite they are less available than shrubs and forbs and that this preference remains constant through seasons regardless of the precipitation regime. The characteristics of mara’s diet and the ecological implications of these findings are discussed.
Key words:
Dolichotis patagonum, diet, grasses, preference, Sierra de las Quijadas

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