Social rank and winter forage quality affect aggressiveness in white-tailed deer fawns

Authors: Taillon, JoëlleCôté, Steeve D.
Abstract: Achieving a high social rank may be advantageous for individuals at high population densities, because dominance status may determine the priority of access to limited resources and reduce individual loss of body mass. The establishment of dominance relationships between individuals involves variable levels of aggressiveness that can be influenced by resource availability. The relationship between social rank and aggressiveness and the impacts of resource abundance on aggressiveness are, however, poorly understood, but may be relevant to understand the mechanisms determining dominance relationships between individuals. We experimentally simulated, in seminatural enclosures, a deterioration of winter forage quality induced by a high-density deer population and examined the effects of (1) social dominance and (2) diet quality on aggressiveness, forage intake and body mass loss of white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, fawns during two winters. Within diet-quality treatments, fawns were consistently organized into linear hierarchies and showed clear dominance relationships. Dominants initiated more interactions and showed higher aggressiveness than subordinates, but subordinates had higher forage intake than dominants throughout winter. Social rank did not influence cumulative body mass loss of fawns. During both winters, fawns fed the control diet maintained their aggressiveness level, whereas fawns fed the poor-quality diet decreased it. Our experimental approach revealed that white-tailed deer responded to a reduction in winter forage quality by modifying their aggressiveness, indicating that ungulates may show plasticity not only in their foraging behaviour in response to decreased resources but also in their social behaviour
Document Type: Article de recherche
Issue Date: 13 July 2007
Open Access Date: Restricted access
Document version: VoR
This document was published in: Animal behaviour, Vol. 74 (2), 265-275 (2007)
Baillière Tindall
Alternative version: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.11.018
Collection:Articles publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture

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