Social rank affects the haematologic profile in red deer hinds

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We studied the effects of social rank on the haematologic profile in a herd of 24 female Iberian red deer hinds. Social rank hierarchy was determined and blood samples were taken and analysed. After adjusting for age and body mass, dominance ranking showed a significant negative effect (ie, lower values in dominant hinds) on white blood cell (WBC) count, haemoglobin and haematocrit. Our results are similar to those reported for stressed individuals due to physical immobilisation, but do not support the predicted enhanced erythropoiesis due to higher levels of androgens. The results for WBC numbers may also reflect that subordinate hinds must allocate a higher amount of resources to immunity as a result of injuries incurred from dominant hinds, while simultaneously facing restricted access to food sources. For red blood cell (RBC) counts, the results may be due to subordinate hinds likely needing increased haematocrit and haemoglobin levels for fast flight responses. Our data show that social rank influences haematologic profile, and thus it should be considered when correctly interpreting blood analyses in social cervid species.

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