AGE-SPECIFIC VARIATION IN MALE BREEDING SUCCESS OF A TERRITORIAL UNGULATE SPECIES, THE EUROPEAN ROE DEER

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Abstract

We investigated age-specific variation in male yearly breeding success (YBS) using genetic estimates obtained from 2 populations of a territorial ungulate, the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). YBS in both populations was markedly age-structured, with 3 distinct stages, supporting the dome-shaped pattern of variation commonly reported for age-dependent variation in life-history traits of ungulates. YBS was low at 2 years of age, peaked at 3–8 years of age, and tended to decline afterwards (senescence). Most males successfully reproduced for the 1st time at 3 years of age, which is well after their physiological maturity. The few successful young males (i.e., 2 year olds) were likely fast-growing individuals that could successfully hold a territory. The high variance in YBS and antler size for old males at Bogesund, Sweden, suggests that only some males of this age class are able to maintain large antlers and, hence, retain their territories.

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