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Lek-breeding in topi antelopes (Damaliscus lunatus)

Bro-Jorgensen, Jakob; (2001) Lek-breeding in topi antelopes (Damaliscus lunatus). Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The role of active female choice is a controversial issue in evolutionary biology. Lek breeding systems are ideally suited for investigating the basis of female mating patterns as mating is spatially concentrated on arenas and mate choice is not confounded by resource availability. In this thesis, I investigate why lekking has evolved in topi antelopes, thereby elucidating the nature of female choice in the species. The data were gathered during two years of fieldwork in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in East Africa. Contrary to predictions of hotspot models, which assume males mapping onto a female dispersion that is unaffected by mating activities, (a) sex ratios on leks were male-biased, (b) females in oestrous concentrated on leks, and (c) leks did not form where female density was highest. Contrary to the prediction of models invoking antipredator benefits of lekking, the probability of meeting hyenas, the presumed main predator, was enhanced on lek. Contrary to the harassment avoidance model, harassment levels were overall higher on lek, although males off lek sometimes coerced females to mate by persistent harassment. A female preference for mating on the central lek was supported by a shorter latency to mate. Apart from centrality of the territory visited, a female's probability of mating was increased if she had high dominance status and if other oestrous females were present. Subordinate females were more likely to have matings disrupted by other females, disruptions were more common on leks and subordinate females received lower intromission rates. Females evaluated olfactory cues on leks. I conclude that the most parsimonious explanation of lek evolution in topi is that females force males to cluster by using centrality on leks as a shortcut to assess male traits associated with fitness. The competition between females for preferred mating partners demonstrates that female ungulates can have active mating preferences.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Lek-breeding in topi antelopes (Damaliscus lunatus)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Biological sciences; Topi antelopes
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10101519
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