Water use patterns of sympatric Przewalski's horse and Khulan: Interspecific comparison reveals niche differences

Yongjun Zhang, Qing S. Cao, Daniel Ian Rubenstein, Sen Zang, Melissa Songer, Peter Leimgruber, Hongjun Chu, Jie Cao, Kai Li, Defu Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Acquiring water is essential for all animals, but doing so is most challenging for desert-living animals. Recently Przewalski's horse has been reintroduced to the desert area in China where the last wild surviving member of the species was seen before it vanished from China in the1960s. Its reintroduction placed it within the range of a close evolutionary relative, the con-generic Khulan. Determining whether or not these two species experience competition and whether or not such competition was responsible for the extinction of Przewalski's horses in the wild over 50 years ago, requires identifying the fundamental and realized niches of both species. We remotely monitored the presence of both species at a variety of water points during the dry season in Kalamaili Nature Reserve, Xinjiang, China. Przewalski's horses drank twice per day mostly during daylight hours at low salinity water sources while Khulans drank mostly at night usually at high salinity water points or those far from human residences. Spatial and temporal differences in water use enables coexistence, but suggest that Przewalski's horses also restrict the actions of Khulan. Such differences in both the fundamental and realized niches were associated with differences in physiological tolerances for saline water and human activity as well as differences in aggression and dominance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0132094
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 10 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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