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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

Chapter 2 - Bovini as keystone species and landscape architects

from Part I - Systematic, ecology and domestication

Summary

Introduction

In this chapter we ask what role Bovini play in ecosystems. We concentrate on some of the more unexpected impacts bovines have, and not on the fact that they serve as food for large predators, or that if they are not killed by these and have not been found by vultures, that they are devoured by maggots. We also do not concentrate on their role as nutrient recyclers. In that respect, the study of Vinod & Sabu (2007) illustrates well the cascading effects of the (local) extinction of large herbivores on the community structure of, in their case, dung beetles. In the wild, the dung of wild water buffalo, Bubalus arnee, is decomposed by fungi; flies and beetles and insects can be found in it, thus providing food for the red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, and green peafowl, Pavo muticus (Chaiyarat et al. 2004; also see Dean & MacDonald 1981; Middleton 2013). The dung of domestic yaks, Bos grunniens, is similarly used (Wu & Sun 2010). A hypothesis we ignore here suggests that large herbivores have a negative effect on reptile biomass (Janzen 1976). The reason to investigate would be that our experience is the opposite of one of Janzen’s suppositions, namely that large herbivores promote fire, and his other supposition that trampling would be bad for reptiles and amphibians. However, Friend & Taylor (1984) find both positive and negative effects of large herbivores. Other functions one normally does not think about include provision by water buffalo of blood meals for ticks, which may be infected with parasites, after which the buffalo can act as a reservoir for some diseases (Miranpuri 1988). Much literature on this subject is available (see, for example, Jongejan & Uilenberg 2004; Fyumagwa et al. 2007; Anderson et al. 2013 for African buffalo, Syncerus caffer, and ticks). It is also noteworthy that water buffalo were found to be near-free of ticks (Tulloch 1968).

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