Quantifying dominance of adult female white-tailed deer in the presence of abundant food

in Behaviour
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Dominance is a behavioural mechanism that allows individuals to access and monopolize resources which should ultimately improve their fitness. Hierarchy strength should be strongest when resources are limited; however, this relationship is not consistent. We provided abundant food to assess whether hierarchy strength was consistent with resource abundance using 9 groups of captive female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We further assessed how body mass, age and testosterone levels were associated with rank position. Deer displayed a weak hierarchy with a mean linearity (h) of 0.39 (SD = 0.09) and a mean directional consistency index of 0.83 (SD = 0.06). Rank was related to body mass (p=0.004, slope = 0.011), but not age or testosterone levels (p0.163). We demonstrate that hierarchy strength was weak in the presence of abundant food resources and suggest the possibility that dominance is a plastic behaviour that may vary with resource abundance.

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Figures

  • Theoretical relationship between hierarchy strength and resource abundance.

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  • Parallelism results for faecal testosterone for white-tailed deer. Curves of percentage binding of 125I tracer (%B BO-1) versus serially diluted low pool and high pool faecal extracts from white-tailed deer were parallel to testosterone standard curves (log-transformed doses). Diamonds, testosterone standard curve points; circles, serially diluted low faecal extracts; triangles, serially diluted high pool faecal extracts.

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