Behavioral and Reproductive Responses to a Population Bottleneck in Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)
The goals of this work on pronghorn, a native North American hoofed animal, are to investigate the effects of a population bottleneck on breeding behavior. The study will complete the construction of a complete population pedigree, measure the effects of inbreeding on reproduction, and see whether females, in their mate choice decisions, are able to avoid inbreeding. In doing so, females may be able to balance inbreeding avoidance with mate choice for genetically superior males. It is possible to achieve these goals because of long-term records, as well as a recent and rare population event, for the pronghorn population at the National Bison Range in northwestern Montana.
Results from this work will be of direct use to wildlife managers, who set hunting dates, harvest levels, and target population sizes for pronghorn in 14 western states. The project will make available information on genetic markers for this species. The project will train 2 female Ph.D. students, and will involve at least 16 undergraduates, half of whom will be from under-represented groups, in field and laboratory aspects of the research. Collaborative work with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service will result in updated estimates of health trends in this important pronghorn population.