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1 August 2012 Repeatability of antler characteristics in mature white-tailed deer in South Texas: consequences of environmental effects
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Antler traits are both genetically determined and environmentally influenced. However, the degree to which environmental factors affect antler expression has rarely been quantified. We captured 30 to 150 male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) annually at 7 South Texas sites during 1985 to 2009 to determine repeatability of antler traits from a semiarid environment with variable rainfall. Repeatability is defined as the intraclass correlation between repeated measures of the same trait over time. Repeatability was moderate to high (0.42–0.82) for all antler traits. Overall, number of antler points had the lowest repeatability, whereas inside spread of main beams and length of main beams had the highest repeatability. Repeatability of total antler score and number of antler points from sites with variable rainfall was 16% and 24% lower than sites with consistent rainfall, respectively. Sites with variable rainfall had 13–18% higher repeatability when enhanced nutrition was available. Studies of cervids reveal a tendency for lower repeatability of antler traits as the environmental conditions become more variable. The association between repeatability and variable environmental conditions illustrates the magnitude of environmental effects and supports the role of antlers as an honest advertisement of individual condition or quality. Our results help to understand potential of microevolution in antlers and have implications for sexual selection and harvest management.

Aaron M. Foley, Randy W. DeYoung, Steven D. Lukefahr, John S. Lewis, David G. Hewitt, Mickey W. Hellickson, Don A. Draeger, and Charles A. DeYoung "Repeatability of antler characteristics in mature white-tailed deer in South Texas: consequences of environmental effects," Journal of Mammalogy 93(4), 1149-1157, (1 August 2012).
Received: 10 May 2011; Accepted: 1 February 2012; Published: 1 August 2012

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