Geological nature of mineral licks and the reasons for geophagy among animals
Abstract. In this paper, the reasons for geophagy (the eating of rocks by wild herbivores) in two regions of the eastern Sikhote-Alin volcanic belt are considered. The mineralogical and chemical features of the consumed rocks, as well as the geological conditions of their formation, are investigated. A comparative analysis of the mineral and chemical composition of the consumed rocks and the excrement of the animals, almost completely consisting of mineral substances, is carried out. It is established that the consumed rocks are hydrothermally altered rhyolitic tuffs located in the volcanic calderas and early Cenozoic volcano-tectonic depressions. They consist of 30–65 % from zeolites (mainly clinoptilolites) and smectites, possessing powerful sorption properties. According to the obtained data, the main reason for geophagy may be connected with the animals' urge to discard excessive and toxic concentrations of certain elements that are widespread in specific habitats and ingested with forage plants.