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Do the sexes tend to segregate in roe deer in agricultural environments? An analysis of group composition

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We studied the composition of European roe deer, Capreolus capreolus (L., 1758), groupings in agricultural fields in northern France throughout an annual cycle to examine whether adult males and adult females tended to live in separate groups as is usually reported for gregarious ruminants. In April, shortly after the beginning of territoriality in mature males, single-sex groups were more frequent than expected by chance, evoking the grouping pattern reported in many territorial antelope species living in open landscapes. In contrast, mixed-sex groups were more frequent than expected by chance from October to January when adult males were no longer territorial and when large groups were formed. In addition, during this last period, females with attendant young were less sociable towards adult conspecifics than were males. Females with attendant young are known to be less sociable than adult males in several other deer species of the subfamily Odocoileinae. We hypothesize that this “sex-biased sociability” explains both the over-frequency of mixed-sex groups recorded in our roe deer population and the grouping patterns exhibited by sexually segregating Odocoileinae species.

Nous avons étudié au cours d’un cycle annuel la composition de groupes de chevreuils Capreolus capreolus (L., 1758) dans une plaine agricole du nord de la France, afin d’examiner si les adultes des deux sexes tendaient à former des groupes distincts, comme cela est habituellement rapporté chez les ruminants grégaires. En avril, peu après le début de la territorialité des mâles matures, les groupes composés d’animaux de même sexe étaient plus fréquents qu’attendu sur la base du hasard, ce qui évoque la composition des groupes rapportée chez de nombreuses antilopes territoriales vivant en paysage ouvert. En revanche, les groupes mixtes étaient plus fréquents qu’attendu au hasard d’octobre à janvier alors que les mâles ne sont plus territoriaux et que des grands groupes se forment. En outre, durant cette dernière période, les femelles suitées étaient moins sociables envers les conspécifiques adultes que les mâles. Les femelles suitées sont connues pour être moins sociables que les mâles adultes chez plusieurs autres cervidés de la sous-famille des Odocoileinae. Nous faisons l’hypothèse que cette «sociabilité biaisée selon le sexe» explique à la fois la sur-représentation des groupes mixtes enregistrée dans notre population de chevreuils et la composition des groupes chez les espèces d’Odocoileinae présentant une ségrégation des sexes.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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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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