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Spatial variation in antler investment of Apennine red deer

Citation

Corlatti, Luca; Mattioli, Stefano; Ferretti, Franceso; Nicoloso, Sandro (2022), Spatial variation in antler investment of Apennine red deer, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.37pvmcvk7

Abstract

Heterogeneity in resource availability and quality can trigger spatial patterns in the expression of sexually selected traits such as body mass and weaponry. While relationships between habitat features and phenotypic quality are well established at a broad geographical scale, information is scanty on spatial patterns at a finer, intra-population scale. We used data collected on 1965 male red deer Cervus elaphus over 20 years from a non-migratory population living on two sides of a mountainous ridge with substantial differences in land cover and habitat quality but similar climate and population density. We investigate spatial patterns in (i) body mass, (ii) antler mass, (iii) antler investment. We also tested for site- and age-specific patterns in allometric relationship between body mass and antler mass. Statistically significant fine-scale spatial variations in body mass, antler mass and, to a lesser extent, antler allocation matched spatial differences in land cover. All three traits were greater in the northern slope, characterized by higher habitat heterogeneity and greater availability of open habitats, than in the southern slope. Moreover, the allometric relationship between body mass and antler mass differed among age classes, in a pattern that was consistent between the two mountain slopes. Our results support the occurrence of spatial patterns in the expression of individual attributes also at a fine, intra-population scale. Our findings emphasize the role of environmental heterogeneity in shaping spatial variations of key life-history traits, with potential consequences for reproductive success.