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Male reproductive pattern in a polygynous ungulate with a slow life-history: the role of age, social status and alternative mating tactics


Willisch, Christian S; Biebach, Iris; Koller, Ursina; Bucher, Thomas; Marreros, Nelson; Ryser-Degiorgis, Marie-Pierre; Keller, Lukas F; Neuhaus, Peter (2012). Male reproductive pattern in a polygynous ungulate with a slow life-history: the role of age, social status and alternative mating tactics. Evolutionary Ecology, 26(1):187-206.

Abstract

According to life-history theory age-dependent investments into reproduction are thought to co-vary with survival and growth of animals. In polygynous species, in which size is an important determinant of reproductive success, male reproduction via alternative mating tactics at young age are consequently expected to be the less frequent in species with higher survival. We tested this hypothesis in male Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), a highly sexually dimorphic mountain ungulate whose males have been reported to exhibit extremely high adult survival rates. Using data from two offspring cohorts in a population in the Swiss Alps, the effects of age, dominance and mating tactic on the likelihood of paternity were inferred within a Bayesian framework. In accordance with our hypothesis, reproductive success in male Alpine ibex was heavily biased towards older, dominant males that monopolized access to receptive females by adopting the 'tending' tactic, while success among young, subordinate males via the sneaking tactic 'coursing' was in general low and rare. In addition, we detected a high reproductive skew in male Alpine ibex, suggesting a large opportunity for selection. Compared with other ungulates with higher mortality rates, reproduction among young male Alpine ibex was much lower and more sporadic. Consistent with that, further examinations on the species level indicated that in polygynous ungulates the significance of early reproduction appears to decrease with increasing survival. Overall, this study supports the theory that survival prospects of males modulate the investments into reproduction via alternative mating tactics early in life. In the case of male Alpine ibex, the results indicate that their life-history strategy targets for long life, slow and prolonged growth and late reproduction.

Abstract

According to life-history theory age-dependent investments into reproduction are thought to co-vary with survival and growth of animals. In polygynous species, in which size is an important determinant of reproductive success, male reproduction via alternative mating tactics at young age are consequently expected to be the less frequent in species with higher survival. We tested this hypothesis in male Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), a highly sexually dimorphic mountain ungulate whose males have been reported to exhibit extremely high adult survival rates. Using data from two offspring cohorts in a population in the Swiss Alps, the effects of age, dominance and mating tactic on the likelihood of paternity were inferred within a Bayesian framework. In accordance with our hypothesis, reproductive success in male Alpine ibex was heavily biased towards older, dominant males that monopolized access to receptive females by adopting the 'tending' tactic, while success among young, subordinate males via the sneaking tactic 'coursing' was in general low and rare. In addition, we detected a high reproductive skew in male Alpine ibex, suggesting a large opportunity for selection. Compared with other ungulates with higher mortality rates, reproduction among young male Alpine ibex was much lower and more sporadic. Consistent with that, further examinations on the species level indicated that in polygynous ungulates the significance of early reproduction appears to decrease with increasing survival. Overall, this study supports the theory that survival prospects of males modulate the investments into reproduction via alternative mating tactics early in life. In the case of male Alpine ibex, the results indicate that their life-history strategy targets for long life, slow and prolonged growth and late reproduction.

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16 citations in Web of Science®
16 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:January 2012
Deposited On:10 Jan 2013 08:33
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:12
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0269-7653
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-011-9486-6

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