Fallow deer become hoarse in the hunt for a mate

May 19, 2009

Fallow deer become hoarse when trying to attract a mate, according to scientists from Queen Mary, University of London.

Writing in the journal , Dr Alan McElligott from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences has found that male (bucks) can call for a mate more than 3000 times per hour during the peak of the mating season. Their prolonged vocal efforts cause their call structure to break down, leaving them hoarse.

During the season known as 'the rut', fallow bucks produce a call or groan, both to attract mates, and repel competing males. Groans contain information about various aspects of each animal, such as their size and status in the herd.

Dr McElligott and Dr Elisabetta Vannoni (University of Zurich) studied a of fallow deer in Dublin, Ireland. They recorded the bucks' groans during three consecutive breeding seasons (2002, 2003, 2004), between dawn and sunset each day during October. Matings in fallow deer populations peak in late October and this is also when competition between males intensifies, called 'the rut'.

They found that the pitch of groans was lowest during the peak and highest at the beginning and end of the rut. Similar effects on pitch have been seen in men who use their voices for prolonged periods of time, such as teachers and actors.

The duration of buck groans decreased as the rut progressed, probably due to exhaustion and the large weight loss (on average 25 per cent of body weight) that bucks experience at this time.

Dr McElligott explains: "Fallow bucks groan at very high rates during the rut. They also eat less, fight often, and lose a lot of weight. We think the changes in their groan structure are linked to this decline in body condition, and this information on their weakened state could be used by other bucks when deciding to challenge and fight."

"We believe that this phenomenon might be widespread in animals with similar strategies during the breeding season, in which males call repeatedly, reduce their food intake and consequently lose a lot of condition."

Source: Queen Mary, University of London (news : web)

Explore further: Conservation and immunology of wild seabirds: Vaccinating two birds with one shot

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Extinct giant deer relative found in U.K.

Sep 07, 2005

University College London scientists say DNA tests have identified the closest living relative to the extinct Irish Elk, or giant deer, living in England.

Deer denigrate Pennsylvania forests

Apr 02, 2007

Pennsylvania natural resources officials say the state's forests aren't showing any new growth because of overgrazing by deer.

Recommended for you

Nature offers video of 10 cutest animals of 2014

7 hours ago

(Phys.org)—The journal Nature has released a video that ventures a bit from its traditional strictly-science approach to technical journalism—it's all about the cutest animal stories of the past year ( ...

Big data and the science of the Christmas tree

10 hours ago

Often called the "Cadillac of Christmas trees," the Fraser Fir has everything a good Christmas tree should have: an even triangular shape, a sweet piney fragrance, and soft needles that (mostly) stay attached ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.