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Chapter: Plant Anatomy:An Applied Approach: Economic aspects of applied plant anatomy

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Animal feeding habits

Animal pests sometimes consume crop plants. It is often possible to find out what has been eaten by studying the composition of faeces, or stomach contents.

Animal feeding habits

Animal pests sometimes consume crop plants. It is often possible to find out what has been eaten by studying the composition of faeces, or stomach contents. A true estimate of potential losses can then be obtained. We have looked at faeces from rabbits, foxes, badgers, coypu, etc. and even milli-pedes! Of course the fragments of plant are very small when they have passed through an animal’s digestive system. They are first fixed in FAA, and then washed in water. Then there is a sorting process, using a binocular microscope. Similar looking fragments are put into a petri dish, and the sample divided as far as possible into its components. Following this frag-ments from each dish are examined using temporary mounts under the light microscope. We always hope for good characters like silica bodies, hairs, stomatal types and so on. It is a big help to have a set of reference slides made from vegetation growing in the area from which the animal con-

cerned was captured. It was suspected that some African cattle were being injured by eating grasses with sharp silica particles in them. The cattle only ate the grass concerned when other plants were unavailable. We examined the faeces and reported that there were silica bodies and sharp hairs present. Domestic animals occasionally eat poisonous plants, and we may be called upon to identify the fragments. The owner of the animals can then take precautionary measures against further livestock poisoning.

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