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Temporal Relationships, Transitions and Structure of the Behavioural Repertoire in Male Apennine Chamois During the Rut

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The reproductive behaviour of adult male Apennine chamois was studied during 4 rutting seasons in the Abruzzo National Park, Central Italy. The analysis of temporal relationships between behaviour patterns in male-male and male-female repertoires has allowed to group together the patterns functionally associated. Courtship activities were much more predictable and fixed than behaviours in male-male interactions. Qualitative and quantitative variations of the main behaviour patterns have been evaluated throughout the rut. November 8-12 marked the start of the intense phase of the rut. Two of the 3 species-specific courtship behaviours appeared in the peak of the rut (November 23-27). Older males grouped and successfully defended larger harems, containing a greater number of prime females. Males herded females mainly by the Head Down threat, in both the still and moving postures. The aggressive connotation of the Snort, an usually assumed "alarm" call, has been here discussed in the harem formation context. The courtship sequence has been described. The function of female reactive urination was evaluated in this context. A harem holder did not only have to prevent females from leaving, but he had also to deal with male competitors. Usually long agonistic interactions occurred before a Rush or a Chase ended up the contest between 2 males. The Neck Up has been presented here as an effective posture to display the "Attention Guiding Adaptations" present in the body morphology of adult male chamois. Direct correlations were found between the age (i.e. the dominance) of an intruder and the distance at which it was pursued away by the harem holder, as well as the Marking/Horning activity of the latter. The frequency of utterance of the Rut Call built up 60% of all behaviour patterns recorded (N = 8059). It was also used often (36.3 % ; N = 102) to initiate a contest as a vocal dominance display. Harem holders showed a positive correlation of call frequency to the harem females with the rut progression. The last 2 aspects suggest a strong similarity of function to what found for the red deer in assessing the contenders' ranks and in enhancing the oestrus of females. The comparison of male rutting behaviour in Apennine chamois with that reported for other Rupicapra taxa indicated a close affinity with the Pyrenees subspecies and detectable differences with the northeastern chamois.

Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento di Biologia Evolutiva, Universita' di Siena, via P.A. Mattioli 4, 53100 Siena, Italy; 2: Centro Studi Ecologici Appenninici, Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo, 67032 Pescasseroli AQ, Italy


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