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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Franklin County
Big Bucks May Not Breed - DNA Study Result
Not a long article, but interesting for those who like learning about deer.
<a href="http://www.whitetailinstitute.com/info/news/aug05/5.html" target="_blank">The breeding system of whitetails involves formation of a tending bond, where a buck guards, tends and courts an individual estrous female. A buckís body size, antler size, fighting ability, sign-posting skills, courtship finesse and dominance rank increase with age. Typically, these traits and skills peak when the buck is 4 1/2 to 8 1/2 years old. Hence, these prime-age individuals would be expected to do the bulk of the breeding; whereas smaller, younger and less skilled bucks would have little opportunity to secure mates.
Traditionally, we believed that a strict breeding hierarchy results, wherein relatively few of the most dominant males monopolized and bred nearly all of the estrous females. However, new research findings indicate this may not be the case. Studies employing new genetic techniques now challenge this line of thinking, even when whitetail populations are unhunted and large prime-age bucks are well represented in the herd.
Presumably, such a breeding strategy, wherein male mating success is determined by individual rank on the dominance hierarchy, assures genetic fitness of the offspring conceived, as only the physically superior males would reproduce. For example, this has been proven to be the case for some ungulates, such as reindeer. And, based on observational studies, we also thought whitetails employed this type of breeding strategy.
While all this makes good adaptive sense, and tends to be supported by observational data, new evidence based on highly sophisticated DNA testing techniques indicates we may have to adjust our thinking for whitetails. It appears that a large proportion of the whitetail bucks 2 1/2 years and older in any given deer population actively participate in the rutís frenzy and do some breeding. And even some yearlings may not be excluded from mating, despite the presence of mature bucks.
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