Sambar deer are not picky eaters, and will consume anything from grass to leaves; however, they prefer to eat fruit. These animals are restricted to the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia, but don’t seem to mind this at all! The natural habitat of these animals includes densely forested areas that are close to water sources.
What do sambar deer eat?
Sambar deer primarily eat fruit, but will also consume leaves, grasses, vines, legumes, and ferns.
They are especially fond of mulberry trees (genus Morus), mangoes (genus Mangifera), figs (genus Ficus), breadfruit (genus Artocarpus), palms (Arecaceae family) , ziziphus trees (Ziziphus mauritiana), elephant foot yam vines (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius). Lauraceae plants are also favorites of the sambar deer including cinnamon bark and camphor laurel.
During the dry season when fruit is in short supply, sambar deer will eat a large number of leaves and other vegetation.
Sambar deer prefer to eat grasses that are tall enough for them to graze on with their lips close to the ground. Although it varies from place to place, they have been known to feed year-round except during times of severe drought.
In some places, sambar deer migrate long distances between highlands and lowlands according to the availability of food sources.
Do sambar deer eat any fruits?
Yes! While sambar deer prefer fruit, they will eat other plants and plant parts when fruit is in short supply.
Sambar deer also consume many varieties of nutritious plants, grasses and vines along with bark, twigs and leaves from a range of trees such as Livistona chinensis, Bombax ceiba, Dipterocarpus turbinatus, Ficus glomerata , Butea monosperma , Adina cordifolia for protein and glycogen storage.
What plants do sambar deer like to eat?
Sambar deer are herbivores, which means they only eat plants. They have a very large number of plant species in their diet, which includes grasses, leaves, vines, legumes and ferns.
However, when fruit is in short supply during the dry season when there isn’t much vegetation available to eat, sambar deer will still consume massive amounts of foliage such as young shoots and leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs such as Albizia chinensis (mimosa), Acacia nilotica (thorny acacia), Casuarina equisetifolia (Australian pine), Lagerstroemia speciosa (crape myrtle) and Eucalyptus.
Other favorite plants of the sambar deer include elephant foot yam vines (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius), mulberry trees (genus Morus), mangoes (genus Mangifera), figs (genus Ficus) and breadfruit (genus Artocarpus).
Sambar deers also like to eat cinnamon bark, camphor laurel and Sapindaceae which includes soapnuts.
Where do sambar deer live?
The natural habitat of the sambar deer is in places that are densely forested near water sources. They can be found most commonly in India, southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
They will roam into grasslands if their preferred trees and plants are not available. In some places, sambar deer migrate between highlands and lowlands depending on the time of year and availability of food sources.
The Importance of Leaves
The specialized digestive system of these animals has evolved over time in order for them to consume a diet that consists mostly of leaves. A complex four-chamber stomach allows them to extract as many nutrients as possible from their food without losing vital energy.
As ruminants, sambar deer use foregut fermentation in order to break down the cellulose found in plant cell walls. Long intestinal ceca allow for the absorption of nutrients that are produced by bacteria living inside these chambers of the gut. This process is similar to how cows (genus Bos) and other cattle (family Bovidae) digest food; however, both systems differ significantly.
For instance, sambar deer rely on microorganisms located within their forestomachs whereas cattle depend on microbes present in the first part of their digestive tract known as the rumen.
Another difference between these two animals is how they ingest food. Cattle go through a chewing process known as rumination , which is characterized by the regurgitation of partially digested food, whereas this doesn’t occur in deer.
The Risks of Being Picky
Although it seems beneficial to have a digestive system that specializes in eating plants, sambar deer are at risk of being picky eaters because they won’t always consume enough nutrients from plant material.
In fact, scientists think that this species spends up to 83% of its feeding time on just five types of plants even though hundreds of species can be found within their habitat range. This dietary insufficiency means that these animals will have fewer nutrients available during times when fruit and other forms of vegetation are in short supply.
Sambar deer are herbivores that only eat plants. They usually consume grass, leaves, vines, legumes and ferns as well as fruit during the dry season when other types of vegetation are not available.
Although these animals rely on leaves for most of their diet, they are at risk of becoming picky eaters when fruit is limited. The complex four-chamber forestomach allows them to digest plant material more efficiently while the specialized digestive system enables them to consume a large amount of foliage in order to get enough nutrients. Although it may seem beneficial to be picky eaters, sambar deer are still at risk of inadequate nutrition because these animals tend to only consume five types of plants even though hundreds live within their habitat range.
Further research needs to be conducted in order to understand how much competition exists between sambar deer and other species that also rely on leaves for food.
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