In this new study, published today (10 February) in the journal Behavioral Ecology, scientists were able to gauge that fallow bucks listen to the sound quality of rival males' calls and evaluate how exhausted the caller is and whether they should fight or keep their distance.
Male fallow deer are sensitive to changes in the groans that rivals make during mating season when competing for the attention of female deer and can assess the level of threat other males pose simply from vocal cues, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London.
Credit: Queen Mary University of London
"Fallow bucks are among the most impressive vocal athletes of all deer and invest a large amount of time and energy in calling," explained Dr Benjamin Pitcher from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.
During the mating season, fallow bucks produce a call or groan, both to attract mates, and repel competing males. Groans contain numerous clues about each animal, such as their size and status in the herd. The researchers set up a series of playback experiments to investigate how the bucks responded to changes in calling rates and vocal fatigue in the groans of their rivals.
The deer were more responsive to fast rate groans than to slow rate groans indicating that bucks signal their motivation or aggressiveness in how quickly they call. The bucks also recognised groans from early in the rut, recorded before callers became tired, as more threatening than groans recorded later in the rut. This shows that bucks can detect when rivals are becoming fatigued and that exhausted males pose less of a threat.
Dr Pitcher added: "We know from this recent study that by detecting changes in calls, bucks are able to judge which rival is most vulnerable to be challenged and when to fight."
It's known that male deer largely stop feeding and lose more than a quarter* of their body weight while they focus on finding mates, so vocal fatigue seems to be an important indicator as to which male deer have become worn out over the course of the breeding season.
"These results help us to understand how vocalisations and behaviours associated with mating have evolved," said Dr McElligott.
"The findings demonstrate how sexual selection has shaped the vocal behaviour and communication system of fallow deer. We see this trend with other mammals that have similar vocal systems, such as sea lions. The study helps to develop an understanding of how competing for, and attracting mates, has influenced the evolution of communication systems, including human speech."
The work was done in collaboration with the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, and funded by The Fyssen Foundation.
*Male fallow deer lose approximately 26 per cent of their body weight during the height of the mating season.
The research also involved Dr Elodie Briefer who is now based at ETH Zurich and Dr Elisabetta Vannoni at University of Zurich.
'Fallow bucks attend to vocal cues of motivation and fatigue' is published in the journal Behavioral Ecology on Monday 10 February 2014.
For more information or to arrange interviews with the authors, please contact:Neha Okhandiar
A member of the Russell Group, it is amongst the largest of the colleges of the University of London. Queen Mary's 4,000staff deliver world class degree programmes and research across 21 academic departments and institutes, within three Faculties: Science and Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Queen Mary is ranked 11th in the UK according to the Guardian analysis of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, and has been described as 'the biggest star among the research-intensive institutions' by the Times Higher Education.
The College has a strong international reputation, with around 20 per cent of students coming from over 100 countries. Queen Mary has an annual turnover of £300m, research income worth £90m, and generates employment and output worth £600m to the UK economy each year.
The College is unique amongst London's universities in being able to offer a completely integrated residential campus, with a 2,000-bed award-winning Student Village on its Mile End campus.
Neha Okhandiar | EurekAlert!
Using sphere packing models to explain the structure of forests
26.11.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ
Taking a molecular approach to conserving freshwater biodiversity
09.11.2015 | Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
26.11.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
26.11.2015 | Materials Sciences
26.11.2015 | Earth Sciences