Table of Contents
Advances in Ecology
Volume 2015, Article ID 156041, 11 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/156041
Research Article

Antler and Body Size in Black-Tailed Deer: An Analysis of Cohort Effects

1Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, 921 South 8th Avenue, Stop 8007, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA
2Department of Biology, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA
3Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management, University of California, Berkeley, 130 Mulford Hall No. 3114, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Received 5 August 2015; Revised 26 October 2015; Accepted 4 November 2015

Academic Editor: Sveinn Are Hanssen

Copyright © 2015 Johanna C. Thalmann et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

For long-lived species, environmental factors experienced early in life can have lasting effects persisting into adulthood. Large herbivores can be susceptible to cohort-wide declines in fitness as a result of decreases in forage availability, because of extrinsic factors, including extreme climate or high population densities. To examine effects of cohort-specific extrinsic factors on size of adults, we performed a retrospective analysis on harvest data of 450 male black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) over 19 years in central California, USA. We determined that population density of females had a more dominant effect than did precipitation on body size of males. Harvest of female deer resulted in increases in the overall size of males, even though a 6-year drought occurred during that treatment period. Body size was most influenced by female population density early in life, while antler size was highly affected by both weather early in life and the year directly before harvest. This study provides insights that improve our understanding of the role of cohort effects in body and antler size by cervids; and, in particular, that reduction in female population density can have a profound effect on the body and antler size of male deer.