Dietary characterization of terrestrial mammals

Silvia Pineda-Munoz*, John Alroy

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    48 Citations (Scopus)
    12 Downloads (Pure)


    Understanding the feeding behaviour of the species that make up any ecosystem is essential for designing further research. Mammals have been studied intensively, but the criteria used for classifying their diets are far from being standardized.We built a database summarizing the dietary preferences of terrestrial mammals using published data regarding their stomach contents. We performed multivariate analyses in order to set up a standardized classification scheme. Ideally, food consumption percentages should be used instead of qualitative classifications. However, when highly detailed information is not available we propose classifying animals based on their main feeding resources. They should be classified as generalists when none of the feeding resources constitute over 50% of the diet. The term 'omnivore' should be avoided because it does not communicate all the complexity inherent to food choice. Moreover, the so-called omnivore diets actually involve several distinctive adaptations. Our dataset shows that terrestrial mammals are generally highly specialized and that some degree of food mixing may even be required for most species.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20141173
    Pages (from-to)1-7
    Number of pages7
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1789
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2014

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Authors 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Dietary specialization
    • Ecomorphology
    • Mammal ecology
    • Mammal palaeoecology


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