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Quantifying dominance of adult female white-tailed deer in the presence of abundant food

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Dominance is a behavioural mechanism that allows individuals to access and monopolize resources which should ultimately improve their fitness. Hierarchy strength should be strongest when resources are limited; however, this relationship is not consistent. We provided abundant food to assess whether hierarchy strength was consistent with resource abundance using 9 groups of captive female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We further assessed how body mass, age and testosterone levels were associated with rank position. Deer displayed a weak hierarchy with a mean linearity ( h ′ ) of 0.39 (SD = 0.09) and a mean directional consistency index of 0.83 (SD = 0.06). Rank was related to body mass ( p = 0 . 004 , slope = 0.011), but not age or testosterone levels ( p ⩾ 0 . 163 ). We demonstrate that hierarchy strength was weak in the presence of abundant food resources and suggest the possibility that dominance is a plastic behaviour that may vary with resource abundance.

Affiliations: 1: aDepartment of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Deer Ecology and Management Laboratory, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA; 2: bCarnivore Ecology Laboratory, Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA; 3: cDepartment of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA

10.1163/1568539X-00003323
/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003323
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2016-01-01
2017-09-23

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