Costs and Benefits of Female Choice in Nature
NONTECHNICAL ABSTRACT Proposal Number: 9808377 Principal Investigator: John A. Byers Many studies conducted in the past decade have confirmed the once-controversial prediction that female animals in nature should choose their mates carefully. That females in many animal species actively choose mates is now established fact. The larger questions that remain concern how and why females choose. "How" questions involve study of the behavioral strategies and sensory systems that females use in mate choice. "Why" questions concern the value to females in exercising choice. The goal of this one-year project is to develop a genetic paternity analysis for pronghorn, a large mammal native to the North American plains and deserts. This species is particularly useful in the study of these "how" and "why" questions in female choice behavior. At the National Bison Range in northwestern Montana, small tissue samples will be obtained by hand capture of young animals or by remote biopsy darts from adults. These samples will be used to develop the methodology for using DNA microsatellites as genetic markers for this population. The paternity analysis developed by this work will allow study of these questions in future years, and in particular study of whether females are able to choose genetically superior mates. This research addresses central issues relevant to choice behavior in nature that is widely applicable to many species. In addition, this basic knowledge on the reproductive biology of a large ungulate has conservation applications.