Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2018, Vol. 10 Issue (3): 482-491    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-018-0010-5
Orginal Article     
Diet characteristics of wild sheep (Ovis ammon darwini) in the Mengluoke Mountains, Xinjiang, China
Bang LI1, Wenxuan XU1, A BLANK David1,2, Muyang WANG1, Weikang YANG1,*()
1 Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2 Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central Asia, Bishkek 720001, Kyrgyzstan
Download: HTML     PDF(340KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      


In most arid and semi-arid regions of the world, domestic livestock and native wildlife share pastures, and their competition for forage and habitat is thought to be a serious conservation issue. Moreover, unmanaged grazing by livestock can cause the population decline in wild ungulates. The diet of an animal species is a determining aspect of its ecological niche, and investigating its diet has been one of the initial steps in basic ecology study of a new species. To get an approximate understanding of the interspeci?c food relationships of argali (Ovis ammon darwini) between sexes, and sympatric domestic sheep and goats, we compared the diet compositions and diet-overlaps among these herbivores, i.e., male argali, female argali, domestic sheep, and domestic goats in the Mengluoke Mountains of Xinjiang, China by using micro-histological fecal analysis. Female argali, male argali, domestic sheep and domestic goat primarily consumed forbs (43.31%±4.86%), grass (36.02%±9.32%), forbs (41.01%±9.18%), and forbs (36.22%±10.61%), respectively in warm season. All these animals consumed mostly shrubs (female argali: 36.47%±7.56%; male argali: 47.28%±10.75%; domestic sheep: 40.46%±9.56%; and domestic goats: 42.88%±9.34%, respectively) in cold season. The diet-overlaps were relatively high among all species in cold season with values ranging from 0.88 to 0.94. Furthermore, Schoener’s index measured between each possible pair of 4 herbivores increased from the warm season to the cold season. The results illustrate that the high degree of diet-overlap of argali and domestic livestock (sheep and goat) may pose a threat to the survival of the argali in cold season. From the viewpoint of rangeland management and conservation of the endangered argali, the numbers of domestic sheep and goats should be limited in cold season to reduce food competition.

Key wordsargali      fecal analysis      food habits      competition      diet-overlap     
Published: 10 June 2018
Corresponding Authors: Weikang YANG     E-mail:
Cite this article:

Bang LI, Wenxuan XU, A BLANK David, Muyang WANG, Weikang YANG. Diet characteristics of wild sheep (Ovis ammon darwini) in the Mengluoke Mountains, Xinjiang, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(3): 482-491.

URL:     OR

[1] Abrams P.1980. Some comments on measuring niche overlap. Ecology, 61(1): 44-49.
[2] Anthony R G, Smith N S.1974. Comparison of rumen and fecal analysis to describe deer diets. Journal of Wildlife Management, 38(3): 535-540.
[3] Badarch D, Zilinskas R A, Balint P J.2003. Mongolia today: science, culture, environment and development. Mongolia Today Science Culture Environment & Development, 64(3): 735-736.
[4] Baldi R, Pelliza-Sbriller A D, Elston D, et al.2004. High potential for competition between guanacos and sheep in Patagonia. Journal of Wildlife Management, 68(4): 924-938.
[5] Begon M, Townsend C R, Harper J L.2006. Ecology: From Individuals to Ecosystems (4th ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Scientific, 264-265.
[6] Bell R H V.1971. A grazing ecosystem in the Serengeti. Scienti?c American, 225(1): 86-93.
[7] Brown L H.1971. The biology of pastoral man as a factor in conservation. Biological Conservation, 3(2): 93-100.
[8] Campos-Arceiz A, Takatsuki S, Lhagvasuren B.2004. Food overlap between Mongolian gazelles and livestock in Omnogobi, southern Mongolia. Ecological Research, 19(4): 455-460.
[9] Caughley G, Sinclair A R E.1994. Wildlife Ecology and Management. Cambridge: Blackwell Science, 305-324.
[10] Chu H J, Jiang Z G, Ge Y, et al.2009. Population densities and number of khulan and goitred gazelle in Mt. Kalamaili Ungulate Nature Reserve. Biodiversity Science, 17(4): 414-422. (in Chinese)
[11] Demment M W, Van Soest P J.1985. A nutritional explanation for body-size patterns of ruminant and nonruminant herbivores. The American Naturalist, 125(5): 641-672.
[12] Ego W K, Mbuvi D M, Kibet P F K.2003. Dietary composition of wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) kongoni (Alcephalus buselaphus) and cattle (Bos indicus), grazing on a common ranch in south-central Kenya. African Journal of Ecology, 41(1): 83-92.
[13] Fedosenko A K.2000. Study of Argali in Russia and Bordering Countries. Moscow: GU Tsentrookhotkontrol, 291.
[14] Fedosenko A K, Blank D A.2005. Ovis ammon. Mammalian Species, 773: 1-15.
[15] Fulbright T E, Robbins W F, Hellgren E C, et al.2001. Lack of diet partitioning by sex in reintroduced desert bighorn sheep. Journal of Arid Environments, 48(1): 49-57.
[16] Gao X Y, XU W X, Yang W K, et al.2011. Status and distribution of ungulates in Xinjiang, China. Journal of Arid Land, 3(1): 49-60.
[17] Gordon I J, Illius A W.1989. Resource partitioning by ungulates on the Isle of Rhum. Oecologia, 79(3): 383-389.
[18] Harrington G N.1986. Herbivore diet in a semi-arid Eucalyptus populnea woodland. 2. Feral goats. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 26(4): 423-429.
[19] Harris R B, Miller D J.1995. Overlap in summer habitats and diets of Tibetan Plateau ungulates. Mammalia, 59(2): 197-212.
[20] Harris R B.2007. Wildlife Conservation in China: Preserving the Habitat of China's Wild West. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 47-54.
[21] Hemami M R, Watkinson A R, Dolman P M.2004. Habitat selection by sympatric muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in a lowland commercial pine forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 194(1-3): 49-60.
[22] Hofmann R R, Stewart D R M.1972. Grazer or browser: a classification based on the stomach-structure and feeding habits of East African ruminants. Mammalia, 36(2): 226-240.
[23] Holechek J L, Gross B D.1982. Training needed for quantifying simulated diets from fragmented range plants. Journal of Range Management, 35(5): 644-647.
[24] Holechek J L, Vavra M.1981. The effect of slide and frequency observation numbers on the precision of microhistological analysis. Journal of Range Management, 34(4): 337-338.
[25] Holechek J L, Vavra M, Pieper R D.1982. Botanical composition determination of range herbivore diets: a review. Journal of Range Management, 35(3): 309-315.
[26] Illius A W, Gordon I J.1992. Modelling the nutritional ecology of ungulate herbivores: evolution of body size and competitive interactions. Oecologia, 89(3): 428-434.
[27] Jarman P J.1974. The social organisation of antelope in relation to their ecology. Behaviour, 48(1): 215-267.
[28] Johnson M K.1982. Frequency sampling for microscopic analysis of botanical compositions. Journal of Range Management, 35(4): 541-542.
[29] Korfhage R C.1976. Summer food habits of elk in the Blue Mountains of Northeastern Oregon based on fecal analysis. Journal of Range Management, 29(4): 319.
[30] Li Z Q, Jiang Z G, Li C W.2008. Dietary overlap of Przewalski's gazelle, Tibetan gazelle, and Tibetan sheep on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Journal of Wildlife Management, 72(4): 944-948.
[31] Liu B W, Jiang Z G.2004. Dietary overlap between Przewalski’s gazelle and domestic sheep in the Qinghai Lake region and implications for rangeland management. Journal of Wildlife Management, 68(2): 241-246.
[32] Lopes E A, Stuth J W.1984. Dietary selection and nutrition of Spanish goats as influenced by brush management. Journal of Range Management, 37(6): 554-560.
[33] Main M B, Coblentz B E.1996. Sexual segregation in Rocky Mountain mule deer. Journal of Wildlife Management, 60(3): 497-507.
[34] Mathur D.1977. Food habits and competitive relationships of the bandfin shiner in Halawakee Creek, Alabama. American Midland Naturalist, 97(1): 89-100.
[35] Miller D J, Schaller G B.1996. Rangelands of the Chang Tang Wildlife Reserve in Tibet. Rangelands, 18(3): 91-96.
[36] Mishra C, Van Wieren S E, Ketner P, et al.2004. Competition between domestic livestock and wild bharal Pseudois nayaur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41(2): 344-354.
[37] Owen M.1975. An assessment of fecal analysis technique in waterfowl feeding studies. Journal of Wildlife Management, 39(2): 271-279.
[38] Putman R J.1996. Competition and Resource Partitioning in Temperate Ungulate Assemblies. New York: Springer Science and Business Media, 5-9.
[39] Scasta J D, Beck J L, Angwin C J.2016. Meta-analysis of diet composition and potential conflict of wild horses with livestock and wild ungulates on western rangelands of North America. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 69(4): 310-318.
[40] Schaller G B.1998. Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 208-209.
[41] Schoener T W.1968. The Anolis lizards of Bimini: resource partitioning in a complex fauna. Ecology, 49(4): 704-726.
[42] Shank C C.1982. Age-sex differences in the diets of wintering Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Ecology, 63(3): 627-633.
[43] Shank C C.1985. Inter-and intra-sexual segregation of chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) by altitude and habitat during summer. Zeitschrift für S?ugetierkunde, 50: 117-125.
[44] Shrestha R, Wegge P, Koirala R A.2005. Summer diets of wild and domestic ungulates in Nepal Himalaya. Journal of Zoology, 226(2): 111-119.
[45] Sih A, Christensen B.2001. Optimal diet theory: when does it work, and when and why does it fail? Animal Behaviour, 61(2): 379-390.
[46] Smith A D, Shandruk L J.1979. Comparison of fecal, rumen and utilization methods for ascertaining pronghorn diets. Journal of Range Management, 32(4): 275-279.
[47] Stevens E J, Stevens S J, Gates R N, et al.1987. Procedure for fecal cuticle analysis of herbivore diets. Journal of Range Management, 40(2): 187-189.
[48] Stewart R D M.1967. Analysis of plant epidermis in faeces: a technique for studying the food preferences of grazing herbivores. Journal of Applied Ecology, 4(1): 83-111.
[49] Vavra M, Holechek J L.1980. Factors influencing microhistological analysis of herbivore diets. Journal of Range Management, 33(5): 371-374.
[50] Wang S.1998.China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals:Mammalia. Beijing: Science Press, 335-340. (in Chinese)
[51] Williams O B.1969. An improved technique for identification of plant fragments in herbivore feces. Journal of Range Management, 22(1): 51-52.
[52] Wingard G J, Harris R B, Pletscher D H, et al.2011. Argali food habits and dietary overlap with domestic livestock in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia. Journal of Arid Environments, 75(2): 138-145.
[53] Xu W X, Xia C J, Lin J, et al.2012a. Diet of Gazella subgutturosa (Güldenstaedt, 1780) and food overlap with domestic sheep in Xinjiang, China. Folia Zoologica, 61(1): 54-60.
[54] Xu W X, Xia C J, Yang W K, et al.2012b. Seasonal diet of Khulan (Equidae) in northern Xinjiang, China. Italian Journal of Zoology, 79(1): 92-99.
[1] Yadong XUE, Jia LI, Guli SAGEN, Yu ZHANG, Yunchuan DAI, Diqiang LI. Activity patterns and resource partitioning: seven species at watering sites in the Altun Mountains, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(6): 959-967.
[2] Di KANG, Jian DENG, Xiaowei QIN, Fei HAO, Shujuan GUO, Xinhui HAN, Gaihe YANG. Effect of competition on spatial patterns of oak forests on the Chinese Loess Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(1): 122-131.
[3] WANG Shengli, NAN Zhongren, Daniel PRETE . Protecting wild yak (Bos mutus) species and preventing its hybrid in China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(5): 811-814.
[4] GeFei ZHANG, WenZhi ZHAO. Species-specific traits determine shrub-annual interactions during a growing season[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(3): 403-413.
[5] Amit CHAKRABORTY, GuiQuan SUN, B. Larry LI. Spatial organization of multiple plant species in arid ecosystems: linking patterns and processes[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2010, 2(1): 9-13.