Seasonal changes in sexual size dimorphism in northern chamois

Authors

  • M. Rughetti,

    1. Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime, Valdieri (CN), Italy
    2. Département de biologie et Centre d'études nordiques, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
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  • M. Festa-Bianchet

    1. Département de biologie et Centre d'études nordiques, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
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  • Editor: Virginia Hayssen

Correspondence
Marco Rughetti, Département de biologie et Centre d'études nordiques, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec J1K 2R1 Canada.
Email: marco.rughetti@usherbrooke.ca

Abstract

In many polygynous mammals, sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is thought to have evolved through sexual selection, because larger males prevail in male–male combat and secure access to estrous females. SSD is often correlated with higher age-specific mortality of males than of females, possibly because males have higher nutritional requirements and riskier growth and reproductive tactics. In adult chamois Rupicapra rupicapra, sexual dimorphism in skeletal size was about 5%, but dimorphism in body mass was highly seasonal. Males were about 40% heavier than females in autumn but only 4% heavier in spring. For a given skeletal size, males were heavier than females only in autumn. Chamois sexual dimorphism appears mainly due to greater summer accumulation of fat and muscle mass by males than by females. Male mass declines rapidly during the rut. Limited dimorphism in skeletal size combined with substantial but seasonal dimorphism in mass has not been reported in other sexually dimorphic ungulates. Seasonal changes in mass allow males to achieve large size for the rut by accumulating body resources during summer. The use of these resources over the rut may reduce mortality associated with sustaining a large size over the winter.

Ancillary