Understanding Animal Coexistence With a Little Dung and a Lot of DNA

Igor Heifetz ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

Africa’s abundant and iconic wildlife provides seemingly endless wonderment. For ecologists, that has extended to the persistent riddle of how the African savanna’s diverse population of herbivores — from elephants and zebras to impalas and buffalo — survive on what appears to be limited food sources: mostly grasses or mostly trees.

Earlier this year, however, Princeton University research published as the cover story for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reframed the question to this ecological puzzler, and the answer is already changing how people think about ecosystems and species conservation.