Alpine Chamois in Italy

Alpine Chamois in Italy

Reproductive Behaviour of Alpine Chamois

Partners: Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy), University of Siena (Italy), University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna (Austria)

Within animal populations, different males use different tactics to achieve reproductive success. Mating tactics may coexist because they could have different costs and benefits. In this study, we investigate 1) if male chamois really show alternative mating tactics, 2) if there are fitness trade-offs between alternative mating tactics, and 3) what is the underlying mechanism mediating such trade-off.

Different issues require different working methodologies: 1) To identify alternative mating tactics, we captured and marked 19 adult males within the Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy) and equipped them with Vectronic GPS-GSM PRO-Light collars to obtain data on their spatial behaviour during the rut. In parallel, we collected behavioural data to investigate the rate of success in intraspecific interactions. 2) As for potential fitness trade-offs, it is widely assumed that reproductive effort is traded off against the individual’s success to defend itself against pathogens. 3) The physiological basis of this process includes the role of the testosterone on the immune function. We therefore collected behavioural data to estimate mating effort and faecal samples to obtain data on parasite load and hormone levels. We analysed the role of testosterone as mediator of fitness trade-offs
We successfully identified two alternative mating tactics (i.e. territorial and non-territorial males) in Alpine Chamois. Territorial males sharply increased mating effort, faecal androgen and cortisol metabolites, and parasite levels during the rut, whereas non-territorial ones displayed a similar pattern only for androgen metabolites levels. During the rut, territorial males invested more in rutting activities, while having higher levels of faecal cortisol metabolites and greater faecal counts of parasites than non-territorials. Our analysis clearly suggests that there is a trade-off between mating effort and parasitism. Such a trade-off is mediated by faecal androgen metabolites secretion.

A detailed description of our study can be found here: