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- Common Hippos: Mostly a grazing lifestyle, but browse may be included in diet
- Pygmy Hippos eat more browse.
- Pygmy Hippos consume little grass; main food items are leaves and roots of forest plants, fruits, ferns
- Higher quality diet than that of Common Hippo
- Both Common and Pygmy Hippos are absolutely dependent on vegetation near permanent rivers and streams
- Common Hippo carnivory (both scavenging and predation) observed in a drought year in southern Africa. (Dudley 1996)
- Over the last 10 million years hippo diets have been similar to that of modern hippos (grazing with some browse)
- Oxygen and carbon isotopes in fossil enamel and bone yield data indicating diet and habitat
- Always graze and forage on land; consume few, if any, aquatic plants
- Spend day in water, night on land grazing 5-6 hours.
- Usually remain close (1-3 km or .6-1.9 mi) to home watercourse during nighttime feeding
- "Hippo lawns" created where grasses kept short by continued grazing
- Grass is grasped with horny lips (up to 20 inches wide in male) and torn off as hippo moves its head from side to side.
- Weakly rooted grasses are eliminated from the grazing areas with this action
- Coarse, tussock-forming grass species not eaten
- Short creeping grass species preferred that can be grasped with lips
- Plant species in diet include: Cynodon, Panicum, Heteropogon, Sporobolus, Themeda, Cynodon, Digitaria,
Eriochloa, Tragus, Brachiaria, Urochloa, Chloris, Setaria, Cyperus.
- Unlike many artiodactyls, hippos don't ruminate
- Food is coarsely ground by back molars; front teeth not used in feeding
- Have a multi- chambered stomach where carbohydrates are fermented; two day's worth of grasses can be held at one time
- Intestines extremely long (much longer than other grass eaters)
- Slow rate of digestion derives maximum benefit from a nutrient poor diet of grasses and dry forage
- Low metabolic rate allows survival for many weeks without food
- Eat approximately 1-1.5 % of body weight per day
- At least 2.5% of body weight for many other ungulates such as cattle, white rhinos
- Adult hippo consumes 25-40 kg (55-88 lbs) vegetation/day
O'Connor & Campbell (1986)
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