Here is a paragraph from a passage talking about feeding habits of east african herbivores:

When biologist Richard Bell and his colleagues analyzed the stomach contents of four of the five species (they did not study buffalo), they found that each species was living on a different part of the [1] vegetation. The different vegetational parts differ in their food [2] qualities: [3] lower down, there are succulent, nutritious leaves; [3] higher up are the harder stems. There are also sparsely distributed, highly nutritious fruits, and Bell found that only the Thomson’s gazelles eat much of these.

What are the contextual meanings of the words/phrases that are in bold? I think that [1]vegetation means "plant". But I didn't understand the others.

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    You haven't made the connection to the context yet. This is set in Africa; there are plants (vegetation), and animals that eat them (herbivores). The different kinds of animals eat different parts of the plants, which grow tall. Some animals eat parts that are lower down on the plants, and some eat parts that are higher up the plant. They don't all eat the same thing, in other words, so they don't compete directly for the same resources. – John Lawler Oct 3 '16 at 15:27
  • @JohnLawler Great. Thank you. So this means that the stems are above the leaves, right?.... And for [2] qualities, it means 'goodness'? – ammar Oct 3 '16 at 15:40
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    @ammarx, "qualities" here does not mean "goodnesses", it means "characteristics". This is one of the primary meanings of "quality", which you can find in any dictionary (along with "vegetation"), which will help your understanding. Don't just stop at the first definition, read them all and then try to pick which one fits the context best. – Hellion Oct 3 '16 at 15:45
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    Why was a simple dictionary search not good enough here? – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 3 '16 at 15:54

Vegetation - In this case the plants growing in the immediate area and, therefore, available to the herbivores as food.

Qualities - The characteristics of the food. H!ow much fibre it has in it, how hard (or soft) it is, how juicy it is, what nutrients it contains and so on.

Lower down & higher up - Lower down means closer to the ground, higher up means further from the ground. The same would apply to mountains (lower down the slopes are covered in thick forest, higher up there are open slopes and glaciers).

  • I did a research. But I was confused about the meaning of 'qualities' and I thought that 'lower down' and 'higher up' are related to 'qualities' not to the highness above the ground. – ammar Oct 3 '16 at 15:53

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