Sex differences in giraffe foraging behavior at two spatial scales

We test predictions about differences in the foraging behaviors of male and female giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi Matchie) that derive from a hypothesis linking sexual size dimorphism to foraging behavior. This body-size hypothesis predicts that males will exhibit specific behaviors that increase their dry-matter intake rate relative to females. Foraging behavior was examined at two hierarchical levels corresponding to two spatial and temporal scales, within patches and within habitats.  Patches are defined as individual trees or shrubs and habitats are defined as collections of patches within plant communities. Males were predicted to increase dry-matter intake rate within patches by taking larger bites, cropping bites more quickly, chewing less, and chewing faster. Within habitats, males were expected to increase intake rate by increasing the proportion of foraging time devoted to food ingestion as opposed to inter-patch travel time and vigilance. The predictions were tested in a free-ranging population of giraffes in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. Males spent less total time foraging than females but allocated a greater proportion of their foraging time to forage ingestion as opposed to travel between patches. There was no sex difference in rumination time but males spent more time in activities other than foraging and rumination, such as walking. Within patches, makes took larger bites than females, but females cropped bites more quickly and chewed faster. Males had longer per-bite handling times than females but had shorter handling times per gram of intake. Within habitats, males had no longer average patch residence times but there was no significant sex difference in inter-patch travel times.

There was no overall difference between sexes in vigilance while foraging, although there were significant sex by habitat and sex by season interactions. Although not all the predictions were confirmed, overall the results agree qualitatively with the body-size hypothesis. Sex-related differences in foraging behavior led to greater estimated intake rates for males at the within-patch and within-habitat scales.

Publish DateMarch 20, 2018
Last UpdatedJanuary 27, 2021
Size1.44 MB