A team lead by the University of Idaho is studying the survival of antelope in Mozambique, Africa.
Since 2013, U of I assistant professor Ryan Long has been leading a team studying large plant eaters in Gorongosa National Park. Now, he and his colleagues have picked up a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how size matters when it comes to survival in the park.
Long will look at three species of antelope: bushbuck, nyala and kudu, which are closely related but come in very different sizes. He will look at how body size affects how animals respond to changes in their environment, including accessing food and water.
Bushbuck are the smallest of the group. Nyala are bigger, about the size of a big mule deer. And Kudu are about twice the size as a Nyala, about the same size as an elk. The three types of antelope are all in the same park and Long can watch how they respond when their environment changes.
“They’re all using the same landscape and dealing with the same resource distributions,” Long says.
But, he says, there are things big animals can do that small animals can’t.
“Bigger animals can move farther and they can move faster in their search for food than small animals can and the same is also true of small animals, for example, they can be maybe more selective about which parts of a plant they eat,” says Long.
The study will help scientists figure out conservation and management practices in Gorongosa. But the information might also be helpful when looking at species closer to home, like moose, elk and deer.
“Body size is sort of a defining feature of the animal kingdom in general,” Long says, “And Africa isn’t the only place out there that we’ve got populations of large herbivores that are important for a variety of reasons . . . we’ve also got that in North America.”
Gorongosa is being rebuilt after 16 years of civil war in Mozambique killed off nearly all the large animals. Idaho businessman Greg Carr’s Foundation spotlighted the park in 2008 when it began working to bring the animals back.
Long’s study will start in 2018 and last for four years. With the new grant money, professor Long’s team has picked up a total of $1.25 million from the National Science Foundation to study herbivores in Gorongosa.
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