Reproductive success in reindeer males in a herd with varying sex ratio


Knut H. Røed. E-mail:


In polygynous species, male reproductive success is often correlated with dominance status of individual males and sex ratio in the population. Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, is a polygynous species, and here we compared the variation in male reproductive success and dominance status during two successive years in a herd with a male:female sex ratio of 1:7 and 1:3. Copulations were recorded, together with data on male dominance hierarchy and size of mating groups. Male reproductive success was estimated by paternity analysis of calves using microsatellite DNA markers. The distribution of reproductive success among the males was highly skewed for both years with the most dominant male also being the most successful. The largest mating group was established in the herd with the least skew in sex ratio. In this herd some of the adult males present were less reproductively successful than some of the more subordinate younger males. Estimates of the mating group size of males, correcting for dominance status when more than one male is present in the groups, gave good prediction of individual males’ reproductive success.