, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 156-168

The effects of density dependent resource limitation on size of wild reindeer

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Summary

A density-dependent decrement in size for wild reindeer from 12 different Norwegian herds at 16 different densities was shown using lower jawbone-length as the criterion of size. This criterion was tested and found to adequately predict body size of both bucks and does. Lactation in does did not affect jaw length but significantly affected dressed weights.

A decrement in the size of does as a result of gross density was found. This size decrement was further analysed in relation to the habitat densities in winter (R 2=0.85) and in summer (R 2=0.75) separately, in order to estimate the relative effects of each factor. For herds with adequate food in winter (no signs of overgrazing of lichens) density in relation to summer habitat and mires yielded the highest predictive power in a multiple regression. For herds with adequate summer pastures, densities per winter habitat and lichen volumes showed likewise a highly significant correlation. The inclusion of the lichen volume data in the regression increased its predictive power. The major effect of resource limitation was to delay the time of calving because a maternal carry-over effect allowed the calf a shorter period of growth to be completed during its first summer. Neonate size at birth was highly correlated with maternal size regardless of the mean calving date although the latter was significantly delayed for small-sized does in food resource-limited herds. Likewise the postnatal growth rate of all calves were not significantly different during 50 days postpartum regardless of maternal conditions in winter feeding. The summer growth rates of bucks ≧1 year did not vary significantly between herds. The age of maturity of food resource-limited does was delayed by one year and growth ceased after the initiation of reproduction. This shows that under conditions of limited resources the does with delayed births of calves allocated less energy to body growth simply because they had less time to replenish body reserves once they were freed of the energetic demands of lactation. The overriding effects of such limitation of food resources is thus to produce a time-lag for the completition of all the important life-history events, such as growth, maintenance and reproduction. From a theoretical point of view, i.e. according to the reproductive effort model their only option is to try to overcome this time limitation to reproductive success.