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The influence of early‐life allocation to antlers on male performance during adulthood: Evidence from contrasted populations of a large herbivore

Abstract : To secure mating opportunities, males often develop and maintain conspicuous traits that are involved in intrasexual and/or intersexual competition. While current models of sexual selection rely on the assumption that producing such traits is costly, quantifying the cost of allocating to secondary sexual traits remains challenging. According to the principle of allocation, high energy allocation to growth or sexual traits in males should lead to reduced energy allocation to the maintenance of cellular and physiological functions, potentially causing them to age faster, with impaired survival. We evaluated the short-term and delayed consequences of energy allocation to antlers early in life in two contrasted populations of roe deer, Capreolus capreolus. Although most males mate successfully for the first time in their fourth year, antlers are grown annually from the first year of life onwards. We tested the prediction that a high level of allocation to antler growth during the first two years of life should lead to lower body mass, antler size and survival during the early and late prime stages, as well as to reduced longevity overall. Growing and carrying long antlers during the first years of life was not associated with any detectable cost in the late prime stage. The positive association between antler growth in early life and adult body mass instead supports that fawn antler acts as an honest signal of phenotypic quality in roe deer. For a given body mass, yearling males growing longer antlers displayed impaired performance during their late prime. We also found a trend for a short-term survival cost of allocation to relative antler length during the second year of life. Yearling males that grow long antlers relative to their mass might display a fast life-history tactic. We argue that differential allocation to secondary sexual traits generates a diversity of individual trajectories that should impact population dynamics.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02391690
Contributor : Jean-François Lemaitre <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 5:43:35 PM
Last modification on : Friday, September 10, 2021 - 2:52:19 PM

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Jean-François Lemaître, Louise Cheynel, Frédéric Douhard, Gilles Bourgoin, François Débias, et al.. The influence of early‐life allocation to antlers on male performance during adulthood: Evidence from contrasted populations of a large herbivore. Journal of Animal Ecology, Wiley, 2018, Linking organismal functions, life history strategies and population performance, 87 (4), pp.921-932. ⟨10.1111/1365-2656.12833⟩. ⟨hal-02391690⟩

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