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Differences in the Diets of Female and Male Red Deer: The Meaning for Sexual Segregation

  • garcia;, fernanda
Publication Date
Mar 31, 2023
DOI: 10.3390/biology12040540
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Sexual segregation is a common phenomenon among animals, particularly dimorphic ones. Although widely addressed, the reasons and consequences of sexual segregation are still an important topic in need of better understanding. In this study, we mainly evaluate the diet composition and feeding behaviour of animals, which are related to the use of different habitats by the sexes, a special case of sexual segregation also termed habitat segregation. Sexually size dimorphic males and females often have different energetic and nutritional needs and, thus, different diets. We collected fresh faecal samples from wild Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus L.) in Portugal. Samples were analysed in terms of diet composition and quality. As expected, both sexes differed in their diet composition, with males eating more arboreous species than females, but this difference was affected by sampling periods. Diet composition of both sexes had the biggest differences (and the lowest overlap) in spring, which corresponds to the end of gestation and beginning of birth. These differences might be a consequence of the sexual body size dimorphism characteristic of this species, as well as of different needs due to different reproductive costs. No differences regarding the quality of the excreted diet were observed. Our results may help to understand some patterns of sexual segregation observed in this red deer population. However, besides foraging ecology, other factors may also be contributing to sexual segregation in this Mediterranean population of red deer, and further studies focusing on sexual differences regarding feeding behaviour and digestibility are needed.

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