Potatoes and the nutritional ecology of crested porcupines in a desert biome. Academic Article uri icon


  • (1) Indian crested porcupines (Hystrix indica Kerr) in the Negev desert highlands of southern Israel forage on cultivated potatoes. Here potato tubers as porcupine food are assessed and the impact of potato cultivation on the ecological status of desert porcupines is considered. (2) Captive porcupines ate potato tubers at a rate of 0.9 ± 0.2 g per bite; and fasted animals consumed 530 ± 37 g in the first 45 min of feeding and 148 ± 42 g h-1 thereafter. New tubers had water contents of 83.9 ± 1.9% and energy values of 15.4 ± 1.6 kJ g-1 dry matter. (3) Owing to bulk food processing constraints, porcupines are unlikely to maintain energy balance on potatoes alone; but such a diet would meet the animals' water requirements. (4) Potato cultivation supplements natural food and water, and thus is a major enhancement of desert habitats. Year-round porcupine carrying capacity may have increased two-fold within 3 km of potato fields. (5) As adaptable, generalist herbivores, porcupines will rapidly exploit cultivation in desert areas and become agricultural pests. Several approaches for minimizing porcupine-agriculture conflicts are considered.

publication date

  • January 1, 1985