Ecology, sexual selection and variable mating tactics in fallow deer (Dama dama)

Abstract: This thesis investigates ecological and evolutionary mechanisms behind the variation in male mating behaviour in fallow deer (Dama dama) populations. Two Swedish populations of fallow deer were studied, a semi-wild enclosed population on the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea (Ottenby), and a deer farm located north of Uppsala (Bälinge).At Ottenby, the most successful mating tactic was defense of small mating territories (stands) where males display through scent marking and groaning. The unstable female groups and small group sizes observed supported the prediction that in such populations, males are likely to defend mating territories. Mating stands were found in areas where canopy cover was greatest, producing natural arenas for olfactory and auditory displays. These stands are not likely to be resource territories as the presence of vegetation favoured by females was not found in association with stand location.A strong mating skew was observed in both populations. Among the Ottenby deer, a few of the stand-defending males achieved most of the observed copulations, and high groaning rates were associated with high rates of female access. At Bälinge, where males do not defend mating stands, access to females and mating success were determined through dominance interactions. Dominance rank was found to be positively associated with scent marking, but interestingly, not associated with rates of fighting or aggression. Dominant males at Bälinge and stand-holding males at Ottenby scent marked most frequently early in the rut. In addition, Ottenby males scent marked more in the presence of other males, while females rarely showed an interest in the marks created by males. Scent marking is associated with dominance behaviour and mating territory defence in a number of different cervid species. For fallow deer and other members of the Cervinae, scent marking may also be involved in male-male competition for mates, while among the Odocoilinae, in addition to male-male competition, scent marking may facilitate male-female interactions

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