Researchers have constructed a map of Sub-Saharan Africa showing the types of plant-eating animals that grazed it some 1,000 years ago.

Gareth Hempson, of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and his colleagues used factors such as species distribution, rainfall and vegetation patterns to model the likely biomass of 92 large herbivores across Sub-Saharan Africa around 1,000 years ago. They divided the region into areas each measuring around 12,000 square kilometres, and grouped areas that had similar biomass and animal types into four herbivore regimes. They named these 'herbivomes' after the forest duiker, the arid gazelle and the bulk feeder, with the fourth regime containing a high variety and abundance of larger species. The analysis should assist research on the loss of large plant-eaters and improve understanding of African ecology, the team says.

Science 350, 1056–1061 (2015)