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The Social Organisation of Antelope in Relation To Their Ecology

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The types of social organisation displayed by the African antelope species have been assigned in this paper to five classes, distinguished largely by the strategies used by the reproductively active males in securing mating rights, and the effects of those strategies on other social castes. The paper attempts to show that these strategies are appropriate to each class because of the effects of other, ecological, aspects of their ways of life. The paper describes different feeding styles among antelope, in terms of selection of food items and coverage of home ranges. It argues that these feeding styles bear a relationship to maximum group size of feeding animals through the influence of dispersion of food items upon group cohesion. The feeding styles also bear a relationship to body size and to habitat choice, both of which influence the antelope species' antipredator behaviour. Thus feeding style is related to anti-predator behaviour which, in many species, influences minimum group size. Group size and the pattern of movement over the annual home range affect the likelihood of females being found in a given place at a given time, and it is this likelihood which, to a large extent, determines the kind of strategy a male must employ to achieve mating rights. The effects of the different strategies employed by males can be seen in such aspects of each species' biology as sexual dimorphism, adult sex ratio, and differential distribution of the sexes.

Affiliations: 1: (Animal Ecology Research Group, Department of Zoology, Oxford, England

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