Many species of the Carnivora consume grass and other fibrous plant tissues

Alan R. Franck, Arian Farid


Within the Carnivora order, the consumption of fibrous plant tissues (FPT), such as leaves and stems, is only known to serve the nutritional needs of eight species in the Ailuridae and Ursidae. Apart from the Ailuridae and Ursidae, the extent of FPT ingestion in the Carnivora is poorly understood. A literature search was conducted to compile studies containing evidence of FPT consumption in the Carnivora, primarily based on analyses of scats or gastrointestinal tracts. Among 352 studies, there was evidence of FPT consumption in any amount in 124 species, or 41%, of the Carnivora. Grass consumption was documented in 95 species, while ingestion of sedges, marine plants, bryophytes, conifers, and dicots was much less frequent. A few species showed evidence of consuming fungi or soil. Nine studies observed co-occurrences of intestinal parasites with grasses or sedges in the scats of the Carnivora, suggesting these abrasive or hairy plant tissues help to expel intestinal parasites. The relevance of consuming marine plants, bryophytes, conifers, dicots, fungi, or soil has also been underappreciated. Deliberate ingestion of FPT may be more widespread and important than previously realized in the Carnivora.


algivory; carnivore; folivory; fungivory; geophagy; herbivory

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