Sexual Dimorphism and Intercohort Variation in Reindeer Calf Antler Length Is Associated With Density and Weather

Oecologia. 2005 Oct;145(4):549-55. doi: 10.1007/s00442-005-0155-8. Epub 2005 Oct 13.


We analysed intercohort variability of live weight and antler length of 5,123 reindeer calves. We further assessed the influence of climate and density on the interannual variation in antler length, and discussed sex-specific resource allocation and response to climate variability. Antler length varied significantly among years and between sexes, with interaction between year and sex. Body weight and antler length were highly positively correlated, showed similar intercohort variability, and had a strong allometrical link, suggesting that antler length could be an equally reliable measure of calf condition as live weight. We found a relative measure of antler length (i.e. antler length corrected for the allometric effect of body mass) to be positively influenced by increasing density and May-June precipitation, and also decreasing May-June temperature. We attributed the effect of early summer weather to its influence on forage availability and quality as well as the level of parasitic insect harassment. Gender difference in both the allometric exponents and the interannual variability suggest that young males and females may have different tactics for relative resource allocation towards growth of antlers as compared to body mass. Because antlers are costly to produce, they may be an honest signal of individual quality for both sexes. However, we found gender-specific allometry, as female calves more than males appear to prioritize their antler growth over body mass, especially when resources are limited. Thus, our results suggest that environmental variation may influence the extent of sexual dimorphism in antler length.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Antlers / growth & development*
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Population Density
  • Rain
  • Reindeer*
  • Sex Factors
  • Temperature