Mammalian Biology

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 101–106 | Cite as

Evidence for phenotypic plasticity but not for compensatory horn growth in male Iberian ibex

  • João CarvalhoeEmail author
  • Oihana Eizaguirre
  • Jesús M. Pérez
  • Gregorio Mentaberre
  • Santiago Lavín
  • Paulino Fandos
  • Jordi Ruiz Olmo
  • Xavier Olivé-Boix
  • Rita T. Torres
  • Carlos Fonseca
  • Nathalie Pettorelli
  • Emmanuel Serrano
Original investigation


The description of horn growth patterns is of utmost importance for the sustainable management of wild ungulate populations subjected to intense trophy hunting. This is a topic of renewed interest because horn growth patterns seem to be contingent on region and population.

We sampled 2145 male Iberian ibexes (Capra pyrenaica) evenly distributed across the Els Ports de Tortosa i Beseit National Game Reserve, NE Spain. A total of 24,615 annual horn growth segments were measured and used to describe horn growth patterns of male ibexes and to test whether compensatory horn growth occurs in an heterogeneous area.

We found that individual heterogeneity explained more than a quarter (27.75%) of the variability in annual segment length and that habitat characteristics foster significant phenotypic differences among male ibexes. Our results corroborate previous studies by demonstrating that compensatory horn growth in male ibexes, as in other members of the tribe Caprini, is inexistent. Our study goes one step further and suggests that compensatory horn growth in male ibexes is neither promoted by cohort effects nor by habitat differences.

The absence of compensatory horn growth has important management implications, namely: (i) male ibexes are not able to recover from a bad start, and (ii) the species is prone to evolutionary effects from trophy hunting. We emphasize that the study of just one proxy of horn growth may hamper the current knowledge about compensatory mechanisms in wild ungulates and imperil the development of effective management measures.


Capra pyrenaica Habitat Game management Horn growth patterns Phenotypic plasticity Population management Size-selective harvesting Trophy hunting 


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde, e. V. DGS 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • João Carvalhoe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Oihana Eizaguirre
    • 2
  • Jesús M. Pérez
    • 3
  • Gregorio Mentaberre
    • 2
  • Santiago Lavín
    • 2
  • Paulino Fandos
    • 4
  • Jordi Ruiz Olmo
    • 5
  • Xavier Olivé-Boix
    • 6
  • Rita T. Torres
    • 1
  • Carlos Fonseca
    • 1
  • Nathalie Pettorelli
    • 7
  • Emmanuel Serrano
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology & CESAMUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Servei d’Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS), Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia AnimalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de Biología Animal, Biología Vegetal y EcologíaUniversidad de JaénJaénSpain
  4. 4.Agencia de Medio Ambiente y AguaIsla de la CartujaSevillaSpain
  5. 5.Direcció General de Medi Ambient i Biodiversitat, Depto. de Agricultura, Ramadería, Pesca i AlimentacióGeneralitat de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain
  6. 6.Reserva Nacional de Caça dels Ports de Tortosa i BeseitRoquetes, TarragonaSpain
  7. 7.Zoological Society of LondonInstitute of ZoologyLondonUK

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