Female deer confirm bigger is not always better when choosing a mate

Apr 06, 2011

Female deer do not always choose the bigger and dominant males to mate with, scientists from Queen Mary, University of London and Hartpury College have found.

The research, which was undertaken in Dublin's Phoenix Park on a herd of , focussed on females who chose not to mate with the 'top' males.

The study, published today (6 April) in found that yearling females tended to mate with a higher proportion of younger, lower ranking males while older females actively avoided mating with them.

Alan McElligott, co-author on the study from Queen Mary, University of London said: "The findings of this study have important implications for assessing the effects of on evolution.

"In the past, studies very much focussed on the 'big' males in these types of species and why the vast majority of females mated with them. We focussed instead on matings from the female perspective."

Scientists demonstrated that yearling female fallow deer mate later in the breeding season than older females, with the first yearlings not mating until eight days after the start of the season.

"This difference in yearling female matings meant that a small but consistent proportion of them do not mate with the "big and dominant" males each year.

"This indirect could result from yearling females recognising the difficulty in carrying a 'big' male's offspring to term, but it could also be because those males are worn out by the time the yearlings are ready to mate.

"There are many possibilities as to why the yearlings display an indirect mate choice, and inexperience and their smaller body size compared to older females could also be factors.

"This interesting mate selection gives us a unique insight into evolution, providing an explanation as to why we're not seeing the male deer rapidly increase in size over time."

Explore further: Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

More information: Assortative mating in fallow deer reduces the strength of sexual selection. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018533

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The best both of worlds -- how to have sex and survive

Sep 20, 2007

Researchers have discovered that even the gruesome and brutal lifestyle of the Evarcha culicivora, a blood gorging jumping spider indigenous to East Africa, can’t help but be tempted by that ‘big is beautiful’ mantra ...

Armed beetles find a mate, whatever their size

Mar 27, 2008

One species of armed beetle is proving that size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to finding a mate. The creature’s ‘pulling techniques’ will be revealed in the April edition of the Royal En ...

Female fish flaunt fins to attract a mate

Oct 08, 2010

For the first time, biologists have described the evolution of the size of a female trait which males use to choose a partner. The research, published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, shows ...

Ugly Betty forced to aim for Average Joe

Aug 26, 2010

Less-pretty female house sparrows tend to lower their aim when selecting a mate. Addressing the lack of studies on condition-dependency of female mate choice, researchers writing in the open access journal ...

Recommended for you

Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

Aug 29, 2014

The Natural History Museum of Denmark recently discovered a unique gift from one of the greatest-ever scientists. In 1854, Charles Darwin – father of the theory of evolution – sent a gift to his Danish ...

User comments : 0