Age- and state-dependent reproductive effort in male mountain goats, Oreamnos americanus
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- Mainguy, J. & Côté, S.D. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2008) 62: 935. doi:10.1007/s00265-007-0517-9
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In mammalian polygynous mating systems, male reproductive effort consists mainly of male–male competition and courting of females, which entail substantial somatic costs. Males are thus expected to adjust their reproductive effort according to their age and condition. In this study, we examined how activity budgets of male mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), a polygynous ungulate, varied with age in a marked population over two periods: (1) summers 1995–2006 and (2) ruts 2004–2006. We then assessed if the proportions of time spent in male–male competition and courtship behaviors were influenced by age-specific body mass and social rank during the rut. Males spent most of their time foraging and resting during summer, and rested more and foraged less with increasing age. During the rut, pronounced shifts in activity budgets occurred as juveniles (1–2 years) increased time spent foraging, whereas adults (≥3 years) increased standing and time spent in social interactions at the expense of foraging. At old age, reproductive effort either stabilized or decreased slightly, providing weak support for the ‘mating strategy–effort’ hypothesis, predicting that courtship behaviors should peak in prime-aged males. Age-specific body mass did not affect time spent in male–male competition, but was positively related with time spent in courtship behaviors, providing support for the ‘individual quality’ hypothesis, predicting that males with more resources at the start of the rut should spend more time in mating-related activities. Age-specific social rank did not affect reproductive effort. Surviving to prime age while increasing mass each year should thus allow male ungulates to gain greater ability to court estrus females.