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Durham University

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Apollonio, M., Merli, E., Chirichella, R., Pokorny, B., Alagic, A., Flajsman, K. & Stephens, P.A. (2020). Capital and Income Breeding in Male Ungulates: Causes and Consequences of Strategy Differences Among Species. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 8: 521767.

Author(s) from Durham


The capital and income breeding concept links energy resources used during reproduction to the timing of their acquisition. During reproduction, capital breeders rely on resources gained previously and accumulated for reproductive investment. By contrast, income breeders use mainly resources collected during the period of reproductive activity. Most commonly, this concept is applied to females; relatively few studies have considered males. Moreover, there has been little attention to the link between the capital-income divide and other aspects of mating strategy.
We studied adult males of three wild ungulates with different levels of polygyny. A large dataset (4,264 red deer, 53,619 roe deer, and 13,537 Alpine chamois, respectively) was obtained during 2007–2017 in the whole territory of Slovenia and in the Trento province, Italy.
During the rut, body mass loss of males in highly polygynous species was more than twice that of weakly polygynous species: on average, red deer stags lost 19.5%; chamois bucks 16.0%; and roe deer bucks 7.5% of their body mass. This indicates potential for a hitherto unrecognised link between the degree of intrasexual competition and the degree of capital mating. The variability in body mass at the end of the rut was clearly reduced in both highly polygynous species (from 15.1 to 9.4% in red deer, and from 12.5 to 10.5% in chamois), but did not change in roe deer. Finally, roe deer bucks had recovered body mass to that of the pre-rut period by just 2 months after the rut, while red deer stags did not manage to compensate the loss of weight until the end of the year.
We suggest that, at least in ungulates, there is a link between the degree of polygyny and that of capital breeding. Males of capital and income breeders underwent body mass changes resulting from different reproductive investment during the rut. Capital breeders lost considerably more weight, and invested a variable amount of energy among individuals or among years, possibly to cope with different environmental or body conditions. In so doing, they ended the rut with poorer but more even condition among individuals.