, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 285-291
Date: 07 Jan 2011

Reproductive effort of bison bulls (Bison bison) in semi-natural conditions

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Reproductive effort (RE) is defined as the investment in any current reproductive act. In male ungulates, variation in RE can be explained by differences in age, dominance, phase in the breeding season and number of oestrus females simultaneously present. We investigated the relation between these factors and RE in American bison males in semi-natural conditions. We looked for differences between males in RE, measured by tending behaviour, and maintenance activities (feeding/resting) during the rut. We found no effect of age on RE. During early rut there was no difference in RE between males of different rank. Dominant males had a higher RE during peak rut, and in late rut both the first and second ranking males showed more RE than lower ranking bulls. For all males, there was a clear increase in RE towards peak rut and when more females were attractive. Maintenance behaviours decreased when more females were synchronously in oestrus. The most dominant bulls spent less time grazing than lower ranking males, and all males decreased feeding during peak rut. Resting decreased with age. We conclude that dominance, phase of rut and the number of females synchronously in oestrus are the factors that best explain variation in RE.