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Female-biased dispersal under conditions of low male mating competition in a polygynous mammal


  • This study is part of the doctoral thesis of Javier Pérez-González, conducted under the supervision of Juan Carranza. Both authors are interested in behavioural processes and their evolutionary consequences. They are included in a group that devotes much of its research on Iberian red deer and other wild ungulates in Mediterranean ecosystems in Spain.

J. Pérez-González, Fax: 34927257110; E-mail:


Sex-biased dispersal is a common phenomenon in birds and mammals. Competition for mates has been argued to be an important selective pressure favouring dispersal. Sexual differences in the level of intrasexual competition may produce asymmetries in the costs-benefits balance of dispersal and philopatry for males and females, which may favour male-biased dispersal in polygynous species such as most mammals. This being the case, condition-dependent dispersal predicts that male-bias should decrease if mating competition relaxes. We test this expectation for red deer, where male-biased dispersal is the norm. In southwestern Spain, red deer populations located in nonfenced hunting estates presented altered structures with sex ratio strongly biased to females and high proportion of young males. As a consequence, mate competition in these populations was lower than in other, most typical red deer populations. We found that, under such conditions of altered population structure, dispersal was female-biased rather than male-biased. Additionally, mate competition positively related to male dispersal but negatively to female dispersal. Other factors such as resource competition, age of individuals and sex ratio were not related to male or female dispersal. Males may not disperse if intrasexual competition is low and then females may disperse as a response to male philopatry. We propose hypotheses related to female mate choice to explain female dispersal under male philopatry. The shift of the sex-biased dispersal pattern along the gradient of mate competition highlights its condition-dependence as well as the interaction between male and female dispersal in the evolution of sex-biased dispersal.