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Research article2008Peer reviewedOpen access

Mating system, sexual dimorphism, and the opportunity for sexual selection in a territorial ungulate

Vanpe C, Kjellander P, Galan M, Cosson JF, Aulagnier S, Liberg O, Hewison AJM


In mammals, species with high sexual size dimorphism tend to have highly polygynous mating systems associated with high variance in male lifetime reproductive success (LRS), leading to a high opportunity for sexual selection. However, little information is available for species with weak sexual size dimorphism. In a long-term study population, we used parentage analysis based on 21 microsatellite markers to describe, for the first time, variance in male lifetime breeding success (LBS) of roe deer, a territorial ungulate where males weigh less than 10% more than females. LBS ranged from 0 to 14 (mean = 4.54, variance = 15.5), and its distribution was highly skewed, with only a few males obtaining high LBS and many males failing to breed or siring only one fawn. As predicted for polygynous species with low sexual size dimorphism, the standardized variance in male LBS was low (I-m = 0.75) and was only slightly higher than the standardized variance in female LRS (I-f = 0.53), suggesting a low opportunity for sexual selection. The I-m value reported here for roe deer is much lower than values reported for highly dimorphic ungulates such as red deer (I-m > 3). We suggest that, along a continuum of opportunity for sexual selection, roe deer occupy a position closer to monogamous and monomorphic territorial ungulates than to highly polygynous, sexually dimorphic ungulates with dominance rank-based mating systems such as harems or roving mating systems

Published in

Behavioral Ecology
2008, Volume: 19, number: 2, pages: 309-316

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      Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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