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. 1997 May;110(4):501-507.
doi: 10.1007/s004420050186.

Reindeer Antlers: Visual Indicators of Individual Quality?


Reindeer Antlers: Visual Indicators of Individual Quality?

Eystein Markusson et al. Oecologia. .


Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) in ornamental characters may reflect developmental stability in the translation from genotype to phenotype. Antlers of reindeer show FA, are visually conspicuous ornaments and are important in intraspecific assessment. We show that there is a negative relationship between size and asymmetry in visual antler characteristics (i.e., antler length and number of tines) among free-ranging male reindeer in rut. This indicates that individuals that develop large ornaments are better able to buffer developmental stress than individuals that develop small ornaments. There is no relationship between asymmetry in antler length and asymmetry in jaw length, suggesting that symmetry in antlers does not reflect overall body symmetry. This difference may be caused by trait-specific sensitivity to developmental stress. Such stress may partly be caused by parasites, which show a positive association with asymmetry in antlers, but no relationship to asymmetry in jaws. Our results indicate that antlers may be exposed to directional selection in a visual signaler-receiver system and that information about parasite burden may be obtained from evaluation of asymmetry in antlers developed under exposure to a multitude of environmental stresses.

Keywords: Key words Ornaments; Parasites; Body condition; Fluctuating asymmetry; Reindeer.

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