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Naturwissenschaften. 2003 Dec;90(12):553-7. Epub 2003 Oct 15.

Mating success and fidelity to territories in a fallow deer lek: a female removal experiment.

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Department of Zoology and Biological Anthropology, University of Sassari, Via Muroni 25, 07100 Sassari, Italy.


A lek is a clump of male territories that females visit only for mating; it is quite a rare mating system among mammals. As we wanted to investigate the role of past male mating success on their fidelity to lek territories, we displaced fallow deer females by a lek (Lek A), i.e. we removed the resources for rutting males. They moved to a new area followed by some of the territorial males ('mobile' males) where they established a new lek (Lek B). Other males ('faithful' males) stayed on Lek A. The former had lower mating success and dominance ranking in the early, undisturbed part of the rut. After disturbance, the MS of faithful males was much reduced, while that of mobile males was higher on Lek B than it had been on Lek A. We then disturbed Lek B. Females returned to Lek A, and the mating success of faithful males reverted to its original level. Past mating success was the main factor predicting whether a male was faithful or mobile. We illustrated for the first time the importance of past experience in promoting lek fidelity; this experiment gives an insight into the mechanisms leading to the traditional use of leks.

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