New publication: Implications of the forage maturation hypothesis for activity of partially migratory male and female deer

By Lucie Debeffe*, Inger Maren Rivrud*, Øystein Brekkum§, Erling L. Meisingset§, and Atle Mysterud* in Ecosphere. Open access.


Partial migration is common in a large variety of taxa in seasonally variable environments. Understanding the mechanisms underlying migration is important, as migration affects individual fitness. Migratory herbivores benefit from delayed forage maturation and hence higher food quality during migration and at their summer range, termed the forage maturation hypothesis (FMH). The link between diet quality and rumination time allows migrants eating a higher quality diet to spend less time on rumination, and they can thus allocate more time to additional feeding. However, such an argument implicitly assumes that deer are energy maximizers, while studies have reported also time minimization strategies under risk of predation. Male and female distributions are limited by different factors linked to both body size differences and reproductive strategies, but there is no study investigating differences in activity pattern according to the individual migratory patterns for male and female deer. We here unify the FMH with the hypotheses predicting sex-specific time allocation strategies. To test predictions of sex-specific activity of resident and migratory red deer (Cervus elaphus), we analyzed activity data of 286 individuals that were fitted with GPS collars from a population in western Norway. While migrants were more active during the migration itself, we found no differences in activity pattern between migrant and resident deer during the main growth season, neither in terms of proportion of daily time active nor in terms of daily mean movement speed, thus rejecting that deer were energy maximizers. Overall, we found that females were more active during the main growth season even after controlling for body size differences. These patterns are consistent with patterns predicted from sexual segregation theory linked to the reproductive strategy hypothesis. Our study highlights how the understanding of migration can be advanced by considering it in the context of different reproductive strategies of males and females.

First published: 21 December 2017
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2050
Publication webpage.

* Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066 Blindern, Oslo NO-0316 Norway
§ Department of Forestry and Forestry Resources, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, Tingvoll NO-6630 Norway

Tags: Ecosphere;
Published Dec. 22, 2017 11:02 AM - Last modified Dec. 22, 2017 11:02 AM