Compensatory Growth Limits Opportunities for Artificial Selection in Alpine Chamois



ABSTRACT  In ungulates, big males with large weapons typically outcompete other males over access to estrous females. In many species, rapid early growth leads to large adult mass and weapon size. We compared males in one hunted and one protected population of Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) to examine the relationship between horn length and body mass. We assessed whether early development and hunter selectivity affected age-specific patterns of body and horn size and whether sport hunting could be an artificial selection pressure favoring smaller horns. Adult horn length was mostly independent of body mass. For adult males, the coefficient of variation of horn length (0.06) was <50% of that for body mass (0.16), suggesting that horn length presents a lower potential for selection and may be less important for male mating success than is body mass. Surprisingly, early development did not affect adult mass because of apparent compensatory growth. We found few differences in body and horn size between hunted and protected populations, suggesting the absence of strong effects of hunting on male phenotype. If horn length has a limited role in male reproductive success, hunter selectivity for males with longer horns is unlikely to lead to an artificial selective pressure on horn size. These results imply that the potential evolutionary effects of selective hunting depend on how the characteristics selected by hunters affect individual reproductive success.