Temporal variation in the operational sex ratio and male mating behaviours in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).


In polygynous species, sexual selection is mostly driven by male ability to monopolize access to females in oestrous. In ungulates, the operational sex ratio (OSR), i.e. the proportion of males to individuals ready to mate, varies throughout the peak rut, resulting from the temporal variation in the number of females in oestrous. But the way males adjust their mating tactics to maximise their access to females in oestrous (i.e. as OSR varies) is yet to be investigated. Using 15 years of behavioural observations in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), we compared the relative importance of time within the rutting season (days to the peak-rut) and the OSR to explain the variation in the propensity (i.e. the frequency after controlling for the potential number of encounters) of young and adult dominant males to engage in four mating tactics: herding females, chasing other males, investigating female reproductive status, and courting females. Male-male agonistic behaviour was the most frequent mating behaviour, followed by herding. As predicted, dominant male mating tactics changed over the rutting season: first herding, then chasing other males, and finally investigating and courting females. In contrast to our prediction, we did not find support for the OSR theory. We noted some discrepancies in how young and adult dominant males adjusted their tactics during the mating season, adults being more efficient in timing and in performing their behaviour to maximise access to females in oestrous. The reported sequence of mating tactics may be more efficient than a static mating tactic to monopolize females in oestrous, regardless of the population composition.

DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2017.04.011

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@article{Weladji2017TemporalVI, title={Temporal variation in the operational sex ratio and male mating behaviours in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).}, author={Robert Weladji and G. L. Body and \Oystein Holand and Xiuxiang Meng and Mauri Nieminen}, journal={Behavioural processes}, year={2017}, volume={140}, pages={96-103} }