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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Sep 7;275(1646):2025-30. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0393.

Population density and sex do not influence fine-scale natal dispersal in roe deer.

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UMR 5558 Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, Bâtiment 711, UCB Lyon 1, 43 boulevard du 11 novembre 1918, 69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France.


It is commonly assumed that the propensity to disperse and the dispersal distance of mammals should increase with increasing density and be greater among males than among females. However, most empirical evidence, especially on large mammals, has focused on highly polygynous and dimorphic species displaying female-defence mating tactics. We tested these predictions on roe deer, a weakly polygynous species of large herbivore exhibiting a resource-defence mating tactic at a fine spatial scale. Using three long-term studies of populations that were subject to the experimental manipulation of size, we did not find any support for either prediction, whether in terms of dispersal probability or dispersal distance. Our findings of similar dispersal patterns in both sexes of roe deer suggest that the underlying cause of natal dispersal is not related to inbreeding avoidance in this species. The absence of positive density dependence in fine-scale dispersal behaviour suggests that roe deer natal dispersal is a pre-saturation process that is shaped by heterogeneities in habitat quality rather than by density per se.

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