Energy, water and space use by free-living red kangaroos Macropus rufus and domestic sheep Ovis aries in an Australian rangeland
We used doubly labelled water to measure field metabolic rates (FMR) and water turnover rates (WTR) in one of Australia's largest native herbivores, the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) and one of Australia's dominant livestock species, the wool-breed Merino sheep, under free-living conditions in a typical Australian rangeland. Also, we used GPS technology to examine animal space use, along with the comparisons of urine concentration, diet, diet digestibility, and subsequent grazing pressures. We found smaller space-use patterns than previously reported for kangaroos, which were between 14 and 25 % those of sheep. The FMR of a 25-kg kangaroo was 30 % that of a 45-kg sheep, while WTR was 15 % and both were associated with smaller travel distances, lower salt intakes, and higher urine concentration in kangaroos than sheep. After accounting for differences in dry matter digestibility of food eaten by kangaroos (51 %) and sheep (58 %), the relative grazing pressure of a standard (mature, non-reproductive) 25-kg kangaroo was 35 % that of a 45-kg sheep. Even for animals of the same body mass (35 kg), the relative grazing pressure of the kangaroo was estimated to be only 44 % that of the sheep. After accounting for the energetic costs of wool growth by sheep, the FMRs of our sheep and kangaroos were 2-3 times their expected BMRs, which is typical for mammalian FMR:BMRs generally. Notably, data collected from our free-living animals were practically identical to those from animals confined to a semi-natural enclosure (collected in an earlier study under comparable environmental conditions), supporting the idea that FMRs are relatively constrained within species.
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