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Genetic and behavioural estimates of reproductive skew in male fallow deer


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Populations of fallow deer, in general, have low genetic diversity. Nevertheless, we screened 39 microsatellite loci and identified 20 that were polymorphic and suitable to determine paternity of fallow deer. To date, paternity has been studied for 87, 110 and 152 fallow deer fawns born between 2000 and 2002. Our results confirm the existence of a strong polygynous mating system in our population and confirm that the number of copulations performed by males is globally a good estimator of their reproductive success: males which performed the largest proportion of matings fathered the largest proportion of fawns. Nevertheless, we report some differences between the two measurements of the males’ reproductive success: measures of copulatory success underestimated the variance of the males’ reproductive success. On average, males whose copulatory score exceeded their paternity had mated with a higher proportion of younger females. Young females may be more likely to lose the conceptus, or their offspring may suffer high postnatal mortality.