Male Deer Don't Lie About Their Prowess

LONDON, April 9 (UPI) — The calls or groans of male Eurasian fallow deer give rivals and possible mates an honest account of the emitting deer’s prowess, researchers said Friday.

A study, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal BMC Biology, suggests the acoustic qualities of a deer’s call change over time and reflect changes in status and age.


“As males aged, their dominance ranks changed and rank was a good predictor of mating success,” researcher Alan McElligott of the University of London’s Queen Mary college said.

“Their calls contained features that were honest signals, modified dynamically according to male quality, and showing a very robust example of ‘truth in advertising’ in animal communication,” he said.

He and Elodie Briefer, also from Queen Mary, along with Elisabetta Vannoni of Switzerland’s University of Zurich, studied fallow deer, native to most of Europe, during four consecutive breeding seasons.

They recorded male-to-male competition and matings between dawn and dusk every day during the annual mating season, they said. They also recorded the vocalizations of each male.

“In addition to fallow bucks’ groans being honest signals of age and competitiveness or rank, we’ve shown that a buck’s ‘vocal identity’ changes substantially from one year to the next, while genetic identity of course remains exactly the same,” McElligott said.

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