Black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas, Schreber, 1775) survive in a wide range of environments. Their foraging strategies are highly variable in different habitats. Adaptations in foraging behaviour in relation to abundance and quality of food sources are expected to be highly pronounced in an extreme habitat like a desert. This study investigated the diet composition in black-backed jackals in the Namib Desert by analysing faecal samples collected between February 2004 and August 2005. Frequency of occurrence, relative dry mass and proportion of biomass consumed were calculated for different prey items. Insect parts, mainly of two species — the giant longhorn beetle (Acanthophorus capensis) and a locust (Anacridium moestum) — were found in 72.2% of the samples and were estimated to have contributed 22% to the biomass consumed. Mammals, predominantly rodents and ungulates, represented the highest proportion of biomass consumed (42%), although their remains were found in only one third of the samples. Based on biomass, mammals are assumed to be the jackal's preferred prey, but, probably due to lower abundance, more difficult to obtain than insects. More than 50% of the samples contained plant material, mainly seeds of !NARA plants (Acanthosycios horridus) and false ebony (Euclea pseudebenus), especially during their fruiting seasons. Although the abundance of A. capensis and of A. moestum varied annually, their remains were found in scats throughout the year, indicating a certain degree of specialization on these prey species.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2