Journal of Animal Ecology | VOL. 68
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Food regulates the Serengeti wildebeest: a 40-year record

Publication Date Nov 1, 1999

Abstract

Summary 1. The migratory wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus (Burchell)) population of Serengeti has been monitored for 40 years (1958–1998). The population increased from 1963 to 1977, stabilized from 1977 to 1993 and declined during drought in 1993–94. These changes provided a significant contrast in densities and the opportunity to determine the life history stages where survival was density dependent and their causes. 2. There was a delay in age of maturity and a decline of both yearling and adult pregnancy rates at higher densities. Changes in yearling pregnancy had minimal effect on number of calves born. Adult pregnancy rate dropped from 95% to 88% 3. The greatest absolute mortality occurred in newborn calves (0–4 months old). The most variable survival was in dry-season calf mortality (5–11 months old). 4. Density dependence was clearly present in adult mortality and this appeared to be the regulating life stage. Density dependence was also found in dry-season calf mortality. The drop in pregnancy rate was only weakly density dependent. 5. The main cause of mortality (75% of cases) was undernutrition. Bone marrow condition showed that more animals died in extremely poor condition as the population increased and predators did not cause these deaths. 6. Predation played only a minor role in limiting the wildebeest population. Predators caught animals in moderate condition during the increase phase and increasingly healthy condition during years of high population density. The main pr...

Concepts

Wildebeest Population Density Dependence Population Increased Migratory Wildebeest Adult Mortality Connochaetes Taurinus Human-caused Mortality Permanent Decline Panthera Leo Contrast In Densities

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