Investment in fighting in relation to body condition, age and dominance rank in the male fallow deer, Dama dama

Dómhnall J. Jennings*, Caitríona M. Carlin, Thomas J. Hayden, Martin P. Gammell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


According to life history theory, males of iteroparous species are expected to trade off investment between current and future reproduction based on age (mating strategy or terminal investment hypotheses) or body condition (individual quality hypothesis). However, although central to this latter model, the question concerning whether and to what extent condition regulates competitive investment in polygynous species is unknown. Consequently, we investigated this issue with reference to fight structure in fallow deer contests. Support for the individual quality hypothesis was limited: males with larger necks as determined by prerut neck girth fought for longer than males with smaller necks. However, prime-aged males had higher investment in fighting than preprime- or postprime-aged males indicating that investment in fighting might be age related. Other aspects of our results also failed to support condition-related predictions; although we found that jump clashing and vocal rate were related to weight loss and decline in neck girth, respectively, there was no relationship between investment in fighting and prerut measures of body size. Moreover, we also found that rank was predicted by investment in fighting (backward pushing) rather than body condition. Our results show that, in addition to body condition and age, variation in competitive investment between individuals also influences reproductive effort in the fallow deer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1293-1300
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Body condition
  • Contest structure
  • Dama dama
  • Fallow deer
  • Fighting
  • Life history
  • Reproductive effort

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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