[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 1. Molar tooth wear is considered an important proximate mechanism driving patterns of senescence in ungulates but few studies have investigated the causes of variation in molar wear or their consequences for reproductive success. 2. In this study, we assessed molar tooth wear at death among red deer Cervus elaphus of known age on the Isle of Rum, Scotland. 3. First molar height showed a decelerating decline with age. In females, the rates of molar wear with age varied with location of home range and individuals experiencing low resource competition showed reduced molar wear. We suggest that this spatial variation in molar wear is related to differences in the availability of high-quality grazing habitat and levels of resource competition. 4. There was no evidence that females with more heavily worn molars had reduced reproductive performance late in life or that first molar height was associated with reproductive senescence.
Journal of Animal Ecology 04/2007; 76(2):402-12. · 4.84 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tradeoffs between reproduction and somatic maintenance are a frequently cited explanation for reproductive senescence in long-lived vertebrates. Between-individual variation in quality makes such tradeoffs difficult to detect and evidence for their presence from wild populations remains scarce. Here, we examine the factors affecting rates of senescence in maternal breeding performance in a natural population of red deer (Cervus elaphus), using a mixed model framework to control for between-individual variance. Senescence began at 9 years of age in two maternal performance traits. In both traits, females that produced more offspring in early life had faster rates of senescence. This tradeoff is evident alongside significant effects of individual quality on late life breeding performance. These results present rare evidence in support of the disposable soma and antagonistic pleiotropy theories of senescence from a wild vertebrate population and highlight the utility of mixed models for testing theories of ageing.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Successful reproduction in a single breeding event has consistently been shown to reduce condition, fecundity and survival to the following breeding season. Few studies have examined the cumulative costs of frequent reproduction on survival. Here we use a dataset of female red deer (Cervus elaphus) from the Isle of Rum, Scotland, to model survival probability within a mark–recapture framework. By including both recent reproduction and long-term cumulative reproductive effort in the models we tested whether knowledge of lifetime reproductive effort improves our estimates of survival probability. We found that the fit of the model was significantly improved with the inclusion of longer-term measures of reproductive history. Heterogeneity in the reproductive performance of individuals influenced the expected survival cost of reproduction, with high cumulative reproductive effort associated with high survival, except with individuals reproducing in their first year where reproduction was associated with a decrease in survival. This work emphasises the need to account for reproductive history when estimating the survival probabilities of animals.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated phylogeography and spatial genetic structure in an introduced island population of red deer (Cervus elaphus) on the Isle of Rum, Scotland, experiencing spatial variation in management regime. Five different mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes were present among female red deer on Rum. These comprised two phylogenetically divergent groups, one of which clustered with red deer from Sardinia and North Africa, while the other four grouped with other Western European red deer. Recent and historical red deer management practices explain this result. The Rum population is descended from recent introductions from at least four different UK mainland populations, and translocation of red deer within the UK and across Europe is well documented. We found significant spatial genetic structure across Rum in both mtDNA haplotypes and microsatellite markers. Mitochondrial spatial structure was over an order of magnitude greater than structure in nuclear markers. This extreme difference is explained by the fact that the Rum population was introduced from different source populations, the highly male-biased dispersal patterns of red deer and the much smaller effective population size of mitochondrial compared to nuclear markers. Spatial structure in mtDNA conformed to a pattern of isolation by distance, while nuclear DNA did not. Apparent structure in the nuclear markers was driven by differences between the North Block and the rest of the island. We suggest that recent differences in the management regimes in different parts of the island have led to differences in effective male migration that would account for this observation.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A growing literature now documents the presence of fine-scale genetic structure in wild vertebrate populations. Breeding population size, levels of dispersal and polygyny--all hypothesized to affect population genetic structure--are known to be influenced by ecological conditions experienced by populations. However the possibility of temporal or spatial variation in fine-scale genetic structure as a result of ecological change is rarely considered or explored. Here we investigate temporal variation in fine-scale genetic structure in a red deer population on the Isle or Rum, Scotland. We document extremely fine-scale spatial genetic structure (< 100 m) amongst females but not males across a 24-year study period during which resource competition has intensified and the population has reached habitat carrying capacity. Based on census data, adult deer were allocated to one of three subpopulations in each year of the study. Global F(ST) estimates for females generated using these subpopulations decreased over the study period, indicating a rapid decline in fine-scale genetic structure of the population. Global F(ST) estimates for males were not different from zero across the study period. Using census and genetic data, we illustrate that, as a consequence of a release from culling early in the study period, the number of breeding females has increased while levels of polygyny have decreased in this population. We found little evidence for increasing dispersal between subpopulations over time in either sex. We argue that both increasing female population size and decreasing polygyny could explain the decline in female population genetic structure.