Population subdivision among mouflon sheep (Ovis gmelini) ewes and ranging behaviour of rams during the rut


*All correspondence to: M. L. Maublanc, Institut de Recherches sur les Grands Mammifères, INRA, BP 27, F-31326 Castanet Tolosan Cedex, France


Population subdivision among mouflon sheep Ovis gmelini ewes and ranging behaviour of rams were investigated in the Caroux-Espinouse massif (southern France). Radio-tracking data from 32 ewes and 41 rams monitored in the course of a 10-year study were used to identify female units and to document the movement patterns of males during the rutting period. Cluster analyses, based on the distance between arithmetic centres and on the degree of overlap of locations, were computed. Ewes were found to be partitioned in three or four main units to which they were faithful. Movement patterns of rams were much more variable: half were faithful to a rutting range, overlapping one or more unit(s), and the others were not. We suggest that a combination of social and spatial attachment could explain this ranging behaviour. Females build up their spatial habits following their mothers and, when adults, they occupy the area where they have been reared. Their spatial attachment is consistent with their social preferences for other females. Males balance between antagonistic spatial attachment and social preferences for other males, and differ in terms of spatial behaviour. The genetic implications are discussed.