Parturition date for a given female is highly repeatable within five roe deer populations.
Plard F., Gaillard J-M., Bonenfant C., Hewison AJM., Delorme D., Cargnelutti B., Kjellander P., Nilsen EB., Coulson T.
Births are highly synchronized among females in many mammal populations in temperate areas. Although laying date for a given female is also repeatable within populations of birds, limited evidence suggests low repeatability of parturition date for individual females in mammals, and between-population variability in repeatability has never, to our knowledge, been assessed. We quantified the repeatability of parturition date for individual females in five populations of roe deer, which we found to vary between 0.54 and 0.93. Each year, some females gave birth consistently earlier in the year, whereas others gave birth consistently later. In addition, all females followed the same lifetime trajectory for parturition date, giving birth progressively earlier as they aged. Giving birth early should allow mothers to increase offspring survival, although few females managed to do so. The marked repeatability of parturition date in roe deer females is the highest ever reported for a mammal, suggesting low phenotypic plasticity in this trait.