The Effect of Variation in Male Sexually Dimorphic Traits on Female Behaviour in Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)


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Several sexually dimorphic morphological, behavioural, and territory characteristics of male pronghorn, Antilocapra americana, are highly variable. To test the hypothesis that females respond to variation among males for mate choice, I examined the relationship between these male characteristics and female congregation size and variability. Increased movement up to and during rut and differential female congregation on the territories of males with favoured characteristics were detected as predicted. Individual females increased their home ranges nearly fourfold from summer to rut and visited 88% of the territories in the study area. Female congregation size was related to male phenotype but not to territory characteristics. A canonical correlation analysis revealed that not only were several male traits simultaneously related to female congregation size and variability, but the importance of these traits varied across years. However, male courtship, cheek-patch size, and scent marking behaviours were consistently correlated to female congregation patterns across years. Female congregation was significantly related to male courtship, but there was no correlation between former territory owner's and newcomer's attraction of females. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that females were primarily assessing males instead of territories.