Digestive plasticity as a response to woodland fragmentation in roe deer

Emmanuel Serrano Ferron, Hélène Verheyden, Jürgen Hummel, Bruno Cargnelutti, Bruno Lourtet, Joel Merlet, Mónica González-Candela, Jean Marc Angibault, Aidan Jonathan Mark Hewison, Marcus Clauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Digestive plasticity, which refers to changes in digestive features due to changes in both internal and external environmental conditions, is a crucial factor for understanding the ability of species to cope with environmental changes. In Europe, agricultural intensification and the loss of forests have been major challenges for original forest dwellers, however some species, such as the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), have been able to successfully colonize these new habitats. In this work, we investigated the adaptation of some digestive features of roe deer to the agricultural landscapes. We assessed whether changes in local landscape structure influenced the mass of both reticulorumen (RR) and distal fermentation chamber (DFC) of 47 juvenile and adult roe deer inhabiting an agro-ecosystem in southwest France. Woodland cover had a clear effect on diet quality (estimated by the rate of gas production of digestive contents) and DFC weight of animals. In fact, deer from the most forested landscapes showed heavier DFCs and fed on poorer quality diet (lower gas production) than their counterparts from the most open landscapes. RR mass was less influenced by the landscape openness, being the age of animals the main factor for understanding the variations of this digestive feature in our study area. We can conclude that colonizing agricultural landscapes increases the access to highly energetic and digestive resources. © 2011 The Ecological Society of Japan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-82
JournalEcological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Capreolus capreolus
  • Diet quality
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Landscape structure
  • Phenotypic plasticity


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