Body size and body mass are key indicators of individual phenotypic quality and predictors of important life-history traits such as survival and reproductive success. In wild herbivores, individual responses to changing environmental conditions influence morphometric traits over temporal scales and between populations. However, little research has assessed joint effects of weather and land use on body size/mass at finer, intra-population scale. We used data collected on female and juvenile red deer Cervus elaphus shot over a 17-year period (2001–2017) along two sides of a mountainous ridge largely differing in land cover and habitat productivity, to investigate how fine-scale land use patterns and weather influenced multiple morphometric indicators of phenotypic quality. Accounting for weather, body mass of all sex/age classes increased with increasing proportion of cultivated areas in the landscape and, for young females and calves, that increase was stronger or occurred only in the “low-quality” site. Other biometric traits such as mandible length and hind foot length showed the same pattern in young and calves, suggesting that body mass/size reflects individual responses especially in the early life-stage. Accounting for land use, body mass of adult females and calves was enhanced by increasing rainfall and decreasing temperature in spring-summer, i.e. favourable conditions for vegetation growth. This result also supports late gestation- and lactation-mediated effects of vegetation productivity on offspring quality. Additionally, in male calves, body mass and several other traits increased with decreasing severity of the previous winter, suggesting that quality of male offspring - but not that of females - could depend on winter conditions experienced in utero, likely due to higher maternal costs. Our findings emphasise how land cover and weather jointly affect indicators of phenotypic quality in a large mammal, helping to predict size responses of herbivores under the ongoing climatic- and anthropogenic land use-changes.

Land cover and weather jointly predict biometric indicators of phenotypic quality in a large herbivore / C. Vannini, N. Fattorini, S. Mattioli, S. Nicoloso, F. Ferretti. - In: ECOLOGICAL INDICATORS. - ISSN 1470-160X. - 128(2021), pp. 107818.1-107818.11. [10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.107818]

Land cover and weather jointly predict biometric indicators of phenotypic quality in a large herbivore

N. Fattorini
Co-primo
;
2021

Abstract

Body size and body mass are key indicators of individual phenotypic quality and predictors of important life-history traits such as survival and reproductive success. In wild herbivores, individual responses to changing environmental conditions influence morphometric traits over temporal scales and between populations. However, little research has assessed joint effects of weather and land use on body size/mass at finer, intra-population scale. We used data collected on female and juvenile red deer Cervus elaphus shot over a 17-year period (2001–2017) along two sides of a mountainous ridge largely differing in land cover and habitat productivity, to investigate how fine-scale land use patterns and weather influenced multiple morphometric indicators of phenotypic quality. Accounting for weather, body mass of all sex/age classes increased with increasing proportion of cultivated areas in the landscape and, for young females and calves, that increase was stronger or occurred only in the “low-quality” site. Other biometric traits such as mandible length and hind foot length showed the same pattern in young and calves, suggesting that body mass/size reflects individual responses especially in the early life-stage. Accounting for land use, body mass of adult females and calves was enhanced by increasing rainfall and decreasing temperature in spring-summer, i.e. favourable conditions for vegetation growth. This result also supports late gestation- and lactation-mediated effects of vegetation productivity on offspring quality. Additionally, in male calves, body mass and several other traits increased with decreasing severity of the previous winter, suggesting that quality of male offspring - but not that of females - could depend on winter conditions experienced in utero, likely due to higher maternal costs. Our findings emphasise how land cover and weather jointly affect indicators of phenotypic quality in a large mammal, helping to predict size responses of herbivores under the ongoing climatic- and anthropogenic land use-changes.
Biometric indicators; Body mass; Cervus elaphus; Deer; Land use; Phenotypic quality
Settore BIO/05 - Zoologia
Settore BIO/07 - Ecologia
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2434/852481
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