Reproductive strategies in female Mountain and Dorcas gazelles (Gazella gazella gazella and Gazella dorcas)


  • *Museum of Comparative Zoology Laboratories, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 02138, U.S.A.


Observations of reproduction in four gazelle populations in the semi–arid and arid habitats of Israel during three years have revealed intra– and interspecific differences. In the eastern Lower Galilee of northern Israel, female Mountain gazelles (Gazella gazella gazella) reproduce during every month of the year, conceive first at six months of age and exercise long parental care. Females of a population 80 km to the north (Upper Galilee) maintain a seasonal reproductive pattern, conceive first at 18 months of age and have a short parental care period. The latter pattern is similar to the Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) females of the southern Negev Desert. Interspecific similarities in reproduction of these two populations is attributed to the lack of free water during lactation in both environments where females rely on water available in plant tissue only. The importance of the daily accessibility to water during lactation in female gazelles is discussed. It is suggested that the timing of births and the ability of female gazelles to conceive while lactating are not species-specific characteristics but simply a matter of short-term adaptation to changing environmental conditions common understanding today that animal reproductive strategies are a function of prevailing environmental conditions.