Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 91–96

Age-related changes in reproductive effort of male bison

  • Christine R. Maher
  • John A. Byers


The behavior of male bison during the rut was studied, to test the prediction that reproductive effort should increase with age. Because bull bison do not show parental care, the major component of reproductive effort is competition with other bulls to obtain copulations with estrous females. Data were collected on activity budgets during the pre-rut and rut seasons, on interactions with other bulls, and on proximity to tended females during the rut. Participation in the rut started at ages 5–6. Older bulls showed greater percent time active and less percent time eating than younger bulls. The older bulls also had higher counts of dominance and fight-related interactions and lower counts for behavior associated with submission than did the younger bulls. Risk taken seemed to increase with age since bulls aged 6 to 12 participated more frequently in dangerous activities associated with fighting. Within the 6 to 12 year old group, activity patterns changed little with age. However, from the interaction information, peak ages of 8 to 11 years appeared. For the activities: back up, chase, clash, head nod, jump away, move away, run away, run toward, push heads, dominant, and risk, 11 and 12 year olds more closely resembled younger bulls. This suggests a reproductive effort curve that is flat at zero until about age 6, increases to age 8, flattens out again to around age 10, and then decreases somewhat. Reproductive effort in male bison thus generally conforms with life-history theory predictions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine R. Maher
    • 1
  • John A. Byers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  2. 2.Graduate Group in Animal Behavior and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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