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The effect of age and experience on the reproductive performance and prenatal expenditure of resources in female fallow deer (Dama dama)

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In this paper we tested whether prenatal expenditure of resources in fallow deer (Dama dama) is affected by the age and reproductive experience of mothers. The study was carried out on the wild fallow deer population in Doñana National Park in southwestern Spain. Between 1985 and 1996 a total of 60 different females were monitored by direct observation during the fawning season. The exact age of 22 of these females was known, and 59 fawns born of these females were captured. The mother's age had more influence on the fawn's birth mass than the mother's experience did. Fallow deer fawns born of adult multiparous mothers (5-8 years old) were heavier than fawns born of young multiparous mothers (3-4 years old), whereas birth masses of fawns born of primiparous mothers (2-3 years) and young multiparous mothers showed no significant difference. Fawns were born earlier in the breeding season as the mother's age increased. The trade-off required between resources allocated to reproduction and resources available for growth and maintenance may limit reproduction and the possibility of increasing prenatal expenditure by both young primiparous and young multiparous female fallow deer. Sexual dimorphism in birth mass was detected, males being heavier than females, independently of the age and parity of the mothers. This confirms the finding that fallow deer mothers are selected to expend more resources on their male offspring.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1999

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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