Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 283–294 | Cite as

Female grouping best predicts lekking in blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra)

  • Kavita Isvaran
Original Article


The study of intraspecific variation can provide insights into the evolution and maintenance of behavior. To evaluate the relative importance of ecological, demographic and social conditions thought to favor lekking, I studied variation in mating behavior among and within populations of the blackbuck, Antilope cervicapra, an Indian antelope. Rather than viewing lekking as a discrete mating strategy, I took a continuous approach and treated lekking as a question of the clustering of mating territories, with leks representing one extreme in a range of territory distributions. I surveyed nine blackbuck populations, which differed in population density and in habitat conditions. For each population, I described the mating system in terms of the clustering of mating territories, and measured various factors suggested to favor lekking. I found that large-scale, among-population variation in territory clustering was most strongly related to female group size. Territory clustering was not related to population density. Female group size, in turn, was best explained by habitat structure. Interestingly, these among-population patterns were repeated at a finer spatial scale within one intensively studied population. These findings suggest that territorial males respond to local patterns in female distribution (represented by group size) when making decisions regarding territory location. Finally, although female distribution may explain territory clustering at the population level and more locally within a population, other selective factors (e.g., female preference, male competition, male harassment) are likely to shape the clustering and size of territories at even finer scales.


Lekking Mating system Intraspecific variation Blackbuck 



I am very grateful to J. Brockmann, C. St. Mary, Y.V. Jhala, C. Chapman, M. Sunquist, J. Eisenberg, B. Bolker, and S. Quader for useful discussions and valuable comments on previous versions of the manuscript; the University of Florida, the Animal Behavior Society, the American Society for Mammalogists, and Sigma Xi for research funds; the Forest Departments of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu in India for considerable logistical support and kind permission to work in various protected areas; Y.V. Jhala, the USFWS funded project titled Conservation of the Indian Wolf, and the Wildlife Institute of India for immense logistical help; K.V.R. Priyadarshini and B. Jethva for useful discussions and help in the field; E. Mungall, W. Kyle and J. Kyle for extensive support and help with the Texas population; and T. Czeschlik and three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript. This work complies with the current laws of the countries in which the work was carried out.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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