Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 267–274 | Cite as

Maternal quality and differences in milk production and composition for male and female Iberian red deer calves (Cervus elaphus hispanicus)

  • Tomás Landete-Castillejos
  • Andrés García
  • Francisco R. López-Serrano
  • Laureano Gallego
Original Article


Several theories predict a sex-biased investment either through unbalanced sex ratios in offspring or through differences in provisioning. According to them, one would expect an optimisation in indirect fitness, or else a compensation for increased mortality of one sex. In addition, biases in provisioning may also arise as a consequence of weight-dependent non-adaptive nutrient demands by offspring. This study examines milk provisioning and sex biases in offspring sex ratio together with maternal quality variables. Mothers of higher quality (weight and age) showed greater milk provisioning ability (in terms of production) resulting in greater calf weight gain. Mothers of sons produced greater yields of milk, milk protein, fat and lactose than mothers of daughters, and increased percentage of protein after controlling for higher male birth weight. In contrast, mothers of males did not differ from mothers of females in age or any body weight variables related to maternal quality. These results suggest that differences in milk production and composition for sons and daughters are rather a mechanism to optimise indirect fitness than a mechanism to compensate for increased mortality in male calves, or a consequence of greater weight-dependent nutrient demands by heavier male calves. Results also suggest that biases in milk provisioning may occur without biases in offspring sex ratio, and furthermore, in contrast to the prediction that biases should be relative to the mean investment of the population, that milk provisioning biases might not be relative.


Maternal expenditure Milk production Milk composition Iberian red deer Trivers-Willard model 



We thank Vidal Montoro for help in milk analyses, and Bernardo Albiñana, Jose Ángel Gómez Nieto, Maria Jesús Lorenzo, Fulgencio Cebrián and Isidoro Cambronero for help with animal handling. This study was supported by European project FEDER IFD-0540, and Spanish projects CICYT-FEDER (REN2000-0513 GLO: 7879200), and JCCM PBI-02033.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomás Landete-Castillejos
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andrés García
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Francisco R. López-Serrano
    • 3
  • Laureano Gallego
    • 3
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), Sección AlbaceteUniversidad de Castilla-La ManchaAlbaceteSpain
  2. 2.Sección de Recursos Cinegéticos, IDRUniversidad de Castilla-La ManchaAlbaceteSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de Ciencia y Tecnología Agroforestal, ETSIAUniversidad de Castilla-La ManchaAlbaceteSpain

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