Geographical variation in body weight and sexual size-dimorphism of Norwegian moose (Alces alces)

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Abstract

Geographical variation in male carcass weight, and sexual dimorphism in size was studied in 19 populations of Norwegian moose (Alces alces (L.)).

Significant age-specific variation in male carcass weight was found for all the populations studied up to the age of 4 1/2 years, but in some populations maximum weight was not reached until at least 5 1/2 years. Increase in the mean weight of females after the age of 2 1/2 years was not significant. Only a weak relationship existed between mean yearling and adult bull weights in a population. However, within both the southern (< 62°N) and northern (> 62°N) parts of the country, yearling carcass weight was a good predictor of adult bull weight in a region.

Adult bull weight in a region was best predicted from the increment in mean carcass weight observed between 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 years of age. Within a region, variation in age-specific carcass weight between cohorts of bulls from different years was also well predicted from annual variation in growth increment.

Those patterns reveal a sexual difference in strategy of body growth. The adult weight of females is probably strongly determined by the weight gained by the time of onset of reproduction. The males have available a longer period for growth in body weight. They are therefore able to compensate for low weights early in life by increased gain of weight in later years, that provide good conditions for growth.

Geographical variation in the degree of sexual dimorphism in size correlated only poorly with adult male size. We suggest that the sexual size-dimorphism is a result of reproductive constraints of the female, i.e. in populations living in poor conditions and having small body size, the onset of reproduction prevents further gain in body weight.

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