Oecologia

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 191–197

Antler length of yearling red deer is determined by population density, weather and early life-history

  • K.T. Schmidt
  • A. Stien
  • S.D. Albon
  • F.E. Guinness
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s004420000583

Cite this article as:
Schmidt, K., Stien, A., Albon, S. et al. Oecologia (2001) 127: 191. doi:10.1007/s004420000583

Abstract

In red deer, yearling antler length is a largely nutrition-mediated phenotypic character, and is therefore sometimes used as an indirect estimate of range quality and population condition. However, the parameters affecting yearling antler length have been little studied. We analyse the contributions of density, weather and maternal effects on yearling antler length of 581 individual stags born 1970–1996 on the Isle of Rum (Scotland). We show that antler length is a good measure of yearling condition: the probability of overwinter survival in yearlings that developed antlers was 3 times higher than for yearlings that did not develop antlers, and yearling antler length was correlated with the number of antler points the following year. Between years, variation in yearling antler length was best explained by variation in red deer density and June temperature at 12 months of age. Both of these variables were negatively correlated with antler length, and most likely this effect is due to changes in nutrient availability. Population density affects biomass availability for the individual, while low temperatures in early summer prolong the availability of high forage quality. At the individual level, antler length increased with birth weight and decreased with birth date, reflecting the persistent and pervasive influence of conditions in early life.

Keywords

Cervus elaphus Density dependence Birth date Birth weight Viability indicator 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • K.T. Schmidt
    • 1
  • A. Stien
    • 2
  • S.D. Albon
    • 2
  • F.E. Guinness
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Institute of Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Veterinary MedicineViennaAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology and Hydrology BanchoryGlassel, BanchoryUK
  3. 3.Large Animal Research Group, Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations