Individual differences, density dependence and offspring birth traits in a population of red deer.
Stopher KV., Pemberton JM., Clutton-Brock TH., Coulson T.
Variation between individuals is an essential component of natural selection and evolutionary change, but it is only recently that the consequences of persistent differences between individuals on population dynamics have been considered. In particular, few authors have addressed whether interactions exist between individual quality and environmental variation. In part, this is due to the difficulties of collecting sufficient data, but also the challenge of defining individual quality. Using a long-established study population of red deer, Cervus elaphus, inhabiting the North Block of the Isle of Rum, and three quality measures, this paper investigates how differences in maternal quality affect variation in birth body mass and date, as population density varies, and how this differs depending on the sex of the offspring and the maternal quality measure used. Significant interactions between maternal quality, measured as a hind's total contribution to population growth, and population density are reported for birth mass, but only for male calves. Analyses using dominance or age at primiparity to define maternal quality showed no significant interactions with population density, highlighting the difficulties of defining a consistent measure of individual quality.