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Mating success and fidelity to territories in a fallow deer lek: A female removal experiment

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Morris Gosling


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A lek is a clump of male territories that females visit only for mating; it is quite a rare mating system among mammals. As we wanted to investigate the role of past male mating success on their fidelity to lek territories, we displaced fallow deer females by a lek (Lek A), i.e. we removed the resources for rutting males. They moved to a new area followed by some of the territorial males ('mobile' males) where they established a new lek (Lek B). Other males ('faithful' males) stayed on Lek A. The former had lower mating success and dominance ranking in the early, undisturbed part of the rut. After disturbance, the MS of faithful males was much reduced, while that of mobile males was higher on Lek B than it had been on Lek A. We then disturbed Lek B. Females returned to Lek A, and the mating success of faithful males reverted to its original level. Past mating success was the main factor predicting whether a male was faithful or mobile. We illustrated for the first time the importance of past experience in promoting lek fidelity; this experiment gives an insight into the mechanisms leading to the traditional use of leks.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Apollonio M, Scotti M, Gosling LM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Naturwissenschaften

Year: 2003

Volume: 90

Issue: 12

Pages: 553-557

Print publication date: 01/12/2003

ISSN (print): 0028-1042

ISSN (electronic): 1432-1904

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00114-003-0475-7

PubMed id: 14676951


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