Effects of body mass, age, dominance and parasite load on foraging time of bighorn rams, Ovis canadensis
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In sexually dimorphic ungulates, males generally spend less time foraging than females, possibly because of difference in body mass or because of the energetic requirements of lactation. The relationship between body size and foraging time has received little attention at the intra-specific level, because few studies have documented activity budgets for individuals of known size. Bighorn rams are a good model to explore how body mass affects foraging time, because they range in mass from 55 to 140 kg. We examined how the foraging time of bighorn rams varied according to individual characteristics. We observed rams in a marked population and constructed time budgets during the 3 months preceding the rut. We determined ram social rank based on agonistic encounters and collected fecal samples to count lungworm larvae. Time spent foraging was negatively correlated with body mass. After accounting for age differences, larger rams spent less time foraging and more time lying than smaller rams. Among rams aged 6–12 years, dominants spent less time feeding than subordinates, while fecal output of lungworm larvae was negatively correlated with foraging time for rams of all ages. Body mass accounts for much of the individual variation in foraging time, suggesting that sexual dimorphism is important in explaining differences in feeding time between males and females.