Ecological conditions experienced by offspring during pregnancy and early post-natal life determine mandible size in roe deer

Autoři: Anna Maria De Marinis aff001;  Roberta Chirichella aff002;  Elisa Bottero aff002;  Marco Apollonio aff002
Působiště autorů: Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), Ozzano dell'Emilia (BO), Italy aff001;  Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(9)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222150


Population dynamics studies and harvesting strategies often take advantage of body size measurements. Selected elements of the skeletal system such as mandibles, are often used as retrospective indices to describe body size. The variation in mandibular measurements reflects the variation in the ecological context and hence the variation in animal performance. We investigated the length of the anterior and posterior sections of the mandible in relation to the conditions experienced by juveniles of 8–10 months of age during prenatal and early postnatal life and we evaluated these parameters as ecological indicators of juvenile condition as well as female reproductive condition in a roe deer population living in the southern part of the species range. We analyzed a sample of over 24,000 mandibles of roe deer shot in 22 hunting districts in the Arezzo province (Tuscany, Central Italy) from 2005 to 2015 per age class. Mandible total length in juveniles is equal to 90% of total length in adults. In this stage of life the growing of the mandible’s anterior section is already completed while that of the posterior section is still ongoing. Environmental conditions conveyed by forest productivity, agricultural land use, local population density and climate strongly affected the growth of the anterior and posterior sections of the mandibles. Conditions experienced both by pregnant females and offspring played an important role in shaping the length of the anterior section, while the size of the posterior section was found to be related to the conditions experienced by offspring. Temporal changes of the length of the anterior section are a particularly suitable index of growth constraints. Anterior section length in fact differs according to more or less advantageous conditions recorded not only in the year of birth, but also in the previous year. Similarly, the sexual size dimorphism of the anterior section of the roe deer mandible can be used to describe the quality of females above two years of age, as well as habitat value. Hence the anterior section length of the mandible and its sexual size dimorphism are indexes that can provide cues of population performance, because they capture the system’s complexities, while remain simple enough to be easily and routinely used in the majority of European countries where roe deer hunting period extends from early autumn to late spring.

Klíčová slova:

Biology and life sciences – Anatomy – Digestive system – Mouth – Mandible – Organisms – Eukaryota – Animals – Vertebrates – Amniotes – Mammals – Ruminants – Deer – Physiology – Physiological parameters – Population biology – Population metrics – Population density – Medicine and health sciences – Body weight – Earth sciences – Seasons – Autumn – Winter – Summer – Spring


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