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Antler growth and morphology in a feral sika deer (Cervus nippon) population in Killarney, Ireland

Authors

  • T. J. Hayden,

    1. Mammal Research Group, Department of Zoology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
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  • J. M. Lynch,

    1. Mammal Research Group, Department of Zoology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
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  • G. O'Corry-Crowe

    1. Mammal Research Group, Department of Zoology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
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    • *Marine Mammal Division. Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS. P. O. Box 271. La Jolla. Ca 92038, USA


Abstract

Antler growth and form was examined for a sample of 303 sika stags (Cervus nippon) culled over an eight-year period from a feral population in Killarney National Park, County Kerry, Ireland. Most antler measurements taken were highly correlated with each other and growth was complete after the sixth year. Few abnormalities were recorded and the degree of asymmetry in structure was less than previously reported for other sika populations. Variability in structure decreased with age and there was no effect of year of birth or cull on antler size for either adult or yearling stags. The growth pattern was similar to that of other populations except that the proportion of ‘eight pointers’ was low. An examination of antler damage was used to estimate fighting frequency across age classes. The results are discussed in relation to the genetic history of the herd and the use of antlers as weapons for intra-specific combat.

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