Goats adjust their feeding behaviour to avoid the ingestion of different insect species

T. S. Berman, T. A. Glasser, Moshe Inbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ungulates feed on plants that are often inhabited by insects. Goats (Capra hircus Linnaeus, 1758) can efficiently avoid the ingestion of setae-covered noxious, caterpillars while feeding, but it is unknown how they respond to non-toxic insects. We filmed and analysed the behavioural responses of goats to smooth, innocuous silkworms (Bombyx mori (Linnaeus, 1758)) while feeding. The goats successfully sorted the silkworms apart from the food despite their tendency to cling to the leaves. Although the goats exhibited behaviours similar to those displayed with noxious caterpillars, the frequency of the behaviours doubled and a new behaviour appeared. The goats detected silkworms using tactile stimulation, obtained by repeatedly touching the leaves with their muzzles. This behaviour enabled them to pick silkworm-free leaves (leaving 73% of silkworms behind). If the goats picked up leaves with a silkworm, then they shook it off. When shaking was unsuccessful, they employed a new behaviour, filtering, in which they physically blocked the silkworm with their lips while consuming the leaves. Silkworms that entered the mouths of goats (rare) were spat out. These findings demonstrate that ungulates are capable of adjusting their feeding behaviour to accurately detect and avoid the ingestion of different insect species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-811
Number of pages7
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park management and staff for their valuable support. We thank M. Ben-Ari and A. Viner for their technical assistance. We also thank M. Gish for fruitful discussion and suggestions. This research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 248/17). T.S.B., T.A.G., and M.I. conceived and designed the experiments; T.S.B. performed the experiments; T.S.B. analysed the data; T.S.B. and M.I. wrote the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript, and they declare having no competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Canadian Science Publishing. All rights reserved.


  • Bombyx mori
  • Capra hircus
  • Direct interactions
  • Goats
  • Grazing
  • Incidental ingestion
  • Silkworms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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