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Hello,

I've come across a phrase I don't quite understand. Perhaps, it is because I'm no biologist and my familiarity with the terminology is, thus, rather limited. Or, maybe it's just my bad knolewdge of English grammar.

[Species name] feed on the most abundant or exclusive prey items but may switch to another food component when available and more suitable.

Is the sentence correct at all? Maybe, there's a mistake (punctuation, conjuctions...?). Any ideas?

Thank a lot for any comments!

P.
Comments  
The use of "exclusive" seems odd there. Where did you find that sentence? Please provide a link if you can.
Indeed. That's what I consider problematic, too. Thanks a lot!

Unfortunately, I can't provide a link, because the sentence comes from an article that hasn't been published yet. I've been asked to do some basic proofreading. As far as I know, none of the authors are native speakers of English (so it is not entirely unlikely there are some mistakes), but neither am I. I just happen to have a little more experience with English.

Anyway, giving the sentence a bit more thought, I suspect the most only modifies abundant, but not exclusive (which would have been clearer, perhaps, had the order been reverted to exlusive or the most abundant). So, maybe, the sentence is meant to imply that the species discussed normally feeds on the most abundant prey, and might even feed on a single prey exclusively, but if necessary, it can switch to something else. What do you think?

Thanks a lot for your comment again!
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Without more context I would interpret this to mean that the species feeds on the prey items in its environment that happen to be the most abundant at the time, or, on the prey items that are the only ones available at the time. That is, the species is not picky about what it eats: it there happens to be a lot of something available, it will eat that; if there is only one thing available, it will eat that.
AnonymousWithout more context I would interpret this to mean that the species feeds on the prey items in its environment that happen to be the most abundant at the time, or, on the prey items that are the only ones available at the time. That is, the species is not picky about what it eats: it there happens to be a lot of something available, it will eat that; if there is only one thing available, it will eat that.
Indeed. That's how I understand it too. Thanks a lot for your comment.

Now, do you think (A) the wording can remain as it is, (B) they should revert the order to make it clearer (i.e. the most abundant or exclusiveexclusive or the most abundant), or (C) the wording should change in another way? I'm not sure whether the authors have to face any restrictions on the number of characters or words, so I assume there should be some balance between verbosity and condensation.

I'll be extremely grateful for any suggestions!
In my view it is okay as is. Reversing the order of the words will make it less understandable, even ungrammatical. The context in which the sentence appears will make it clear what is being said.
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Thanks a lot! I'll leave it like that then.

I am not sure why it would be ungrammatical though. Could you, please, expand on that?
petusek[Species name] feed on the most abundant or exclusive prey items but may switch to another food component when available and more suitable.
There is no need to switch the word order. Though purists will consider 'exclusive' non-gradable, biologists will not be troubled by grading the adjective.

The sentence is fine and means that the species will preferentially prey upon what is most available or what it most feeds on alone.
Thanks a lot for your help, and also for your patience! Emotion: smile
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