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Inter-individual variations in male and female mating bonds within a population of Eld’s deer in Hainan Island, China
The mating system of a semi-captive population of Hainan Eld’s deer Cervus eldi hainanus was investigated in the Datian National Nature Reserve, China. In total, 18 females and 11 males out of 61 semi-captive deer were involved in mating, and 43 copulations were observed. The mating system of this population was polygynous, with an inter-individual variation in the type of mating bonds among males (i.e., polygyny, promiscuity) and among females (i.e., serial monogamy, polyandry, promiscuity). During the rut, 13 out of these 18 females (72.2%) copulated with only one male, four of the 11 males (36.4%) mated with more than one female but obtained 81.4% mating opportunities (35 of 43 copulations). Dominant males served significantly more females in estrus than subordinate males. Dominant males can monopolize copulations despite the long duration (over 3 months) of the breeding season, and asynchronous estrus of females makes this possible without increasing energetic costs for dominant males. Mating dominance of a dominant male continued for at least 87 days during the rut, thus the male copulated with a total of 11 females. Our results suggest that the inter-individual variations in male and female mating bonds largely depends on mating strategies of dominant males, operational sex ratio as well as multiple estrous periods in females.
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