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Data from: Intense selective hunting leads to artificial evolution in horn size

Citation

Pigeon, Gabriel; Festa-Bianchet, Marco; Coltman, David W.; Pelletier, Fanie (2026), Data from: Intense selective hunting leads to artificial evolution in horn size, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.41d7q

Abstract

The potential for selective harvests to induce rapid evolutionary change is an important question for conservation and evolutionary biology, with numerous biological, social and economic implications. We analyze 39 years of phenotypic data on horn size in bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) subject to intense trophy hunting for 23 years, after which harvests nearly ceased. Our analyses revealed a significant decline in genetic value for horn length of rams, consistent with an evolutionary response to artificial selection on this trait. The probability that the observed change in male horn length was due solely to drift is 9.9%. Female horn length and male horn base, traits genetically correlated to the trait under selection, showed weak declining trends. There was no temporal trend in genetic value for female horn base circumference, a trait not directly targeted by selective hunting and not genetically correlated with male horn length. The decline in genetic value for male horn length stopped, but was not reversed, when hunting pressure was drastically reduced. Our analysis provides support for the contention that selective hunting led to a reduction in horn length through evolutionary change. It also confirms that after artificial selection stops, recovery through natural selection is slow.

Usage Notes

Location

Canada
Ram Mountain
Alberta