Researchers from the Swedish Agricultural University, in collaboration with Norwegian colleagues, have made the first observation of a moose eating the feces of another moose. This behavior is called coprophagy.
Coprophagy is common among some animals, such as hares, but rare among cervixes.
The survey was conducted over several months in two regions of Norway. Five moose were equipped with camera collars and more than 6,500 videos were collected.
Movies show, among other things, that moose spent about a third of the time filmed foraging. On one occasion, a deer was seen eating the droppings of another deer.
To our knowledge, this is the first observation of communal eating in moose. Observation from the month of May and from the female moose. Robert Spitzer, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), says vegetation hasn’t really started in the area where the moose used to be, so the behavior may have been related to increased intake of nutrients, but that’s just speculation.
It increases the risk of disease
More observations are needed to see how common cophagocytosis is in moose. Researchers are also interested in learning more about the driving forces behind this behavior and the risks involved.
Feces can contain environmental pollutants and infectious agents, and this can be a potential route for transmitting diseases to animals. Therefore, a better understanding of why and to what extent cophagocytosis occurs in wild moose could improve our understanding of disease transmission pathways, says Robert Spitzer.
It could be wrong
More studies are needed to determine whether cophagocytosis is in fact a causal behavior in moose or if the study researchers’ observation was a unique, isolated event.
“Maybe this moose was curious or was an unintended byproduct of foraging on the ground,” says Robert Spitzer.
Coprophagy in Mohs: First Observation, environment and evolution.
Robert Spitzer, researcher at SLU’s Game, Fish, and Environment Institute.
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