Seasonal diets of sable antelope (Hippotragus niger): determined by microhistology and trnL sequence analysis
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I investigated the seasonal diets of sable antelope at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area from June 2013 to April 2014 using microhistological techniques and comparative sequence analysis of trnL gene fragments using next generation sequencing techniques on DNA obtained from fecal material. Forty samples were collected during summer 2013 with 20 samples collected in the fall, winter, and spring. Vegetational analyses were conducted simultaneously with the fecal collection to determine if sable antelope were selectively feeding. Herbaceous plants were sampled using the Daubenmire method. Woody plants were sampled using the line-intercept method. Annually, the bulk of the diet was comprised of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Texas wintergrass (Stipa leucotricha). During spring, summer, and fall little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) was selected. During the summer, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) was also selected. Sable antelope selected Texas wintergrass (Stipa leucotricha) during the winter. DNA analysis targeted a portion of the chloroplast trnL (UAA) intron. Thirteen samples were successfully amplified and sequenced and resulted in 24 unique plant sequences. The vast majority of plants consumed by sable antelope were grasses. While sable antelope may not compete for food resources with browsers such as white-tailed deer and greater kudu, careful consideration should be made when stocking with other grazers such as cattle, waterbuck, gemsbok, and scimitar-horned oryx.