SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • body size;
  • cohort effects;
  • compensation;
  • density-dependence;
  • sexual dimorphism;
  • Capreolus capreolus

Abstract

In temperate ungulates, the body weight of juveniles at the onset of winter is a crucial determinant of survival and can also influence subsequent reproductive success. However, growth may be retarded post-weaning, during winter, as a result of resource restriction and/or the demands of thermoregulation in harsh climatic conditions. Post-weaning growth rates of juveniles were compared in relation to varying density in two populations of roe deer Capreolus capreolus (Chizé, Dourdan) monitored for 10 and 15 years, respectively. Body growth of fawns continued over the post-weaning stage of the juvenile period (October–March) at the rate of 0.017 kg/day at Chizé and 0.014 kg/day at Dourdan. Deer density had no influence on this post-weaning growth rate of juveniles in their first winter. However, deer born in years of high density weighed less at a given date than those born in years of low density because of their smaller body size at the onset of winter, indicating density-dependent rates of growth before weaning. At Chizé, the sexes grew at the same rate, but sexual dimorphism was apparent as males weighed about 1 kg (8%) more than females at a given date. At Dourdan, no significant sexual dimorphism was detected, although females tended to be heavier than males at a given date. We conclude that density influences juvenile body weight (through its effect on birth weight and/or post-natal growth rate) before weaning in this species and, despite continued growth after weaning, during winter, roe deer whose early growth is limited through interspecific competition cannot compensate for this early restriction.