Factors affecting antler investment in Iberian red deer

GOMEZ, J.A., CEACERO, Francisco, LANDETE-CASTILLEJOS, Tomás, GASPAR-LOPEZ, E. a GALLEGO, L. Factors affecting antler investment in Iberian red deer. Animal Production Science , 2012, 52, 867-873. ISSN 1836-0939.
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Antler constitutes such a costly trait that the skeleton of the deer undergoes a process similar to osteoporosis to meet the high demands of mineral deposition in the antler. The allometric relationship between antler and body size is one of the oldest known. However, no study has assessed the proportion that antlers constitute with regard to the skeleton (from which most of the material is drawn), nor which factors influence this investment. To assess this, we studied 171 males (aged 1-5 years), determined their antler and bodyweights and scored their body condition. Then we calculated antler investment as antler weight relative to estimated skeletal weight. Results showed that antler investment in males >= 2 years old (i.e. excluding yearlings) depended on age rather than the whole bodyweight or body condition. Antler investment increased from 6% in yearlings to 35% in 5-year-old males, with a mean of 19%. A GLMM showed that in males >= 2 years old, within age, the heavier the male and the better the body condition at the start of antler growth, the greater the investment in antlers. In yearlings, antler investment did not depend on bodyweight or body condition. In conclusion, antler weight relative to skeleton weight is a good method to assess antler investment. This investment is influenced by age and, in males >= 2 years old, also by bodyweight or condition at the start of antler growth.