Abstracts (first author)
Antler quality in red deer: a test of Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis
The evolution and maintenance of elaborate secondary sexual traits in males has been the subject of intense interest since Darwin. Hamilton and Zuk (1982) hypothesis of parasite-mediated sexual selection suggests that genetically resistant males can afford to invest more in costly ornaments. Therefore elaborated sexual traits can serve as honest indicators of male health and parasite load. We study the association between the MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) class II genes, gastro-intestinal and lung parasite burden and the development of antler (sexual ornament) in red deer (Cervus elaphus). We analyzed associations between antler elaboration (mass and 8 other measurements) and parasite burden (lung nematode larva, abomasum nematodes and fecal egg counts). We found a very complex pattern of relationships. The mass of antler was significantly affected by the lung nematode larva burden. We used 8 antler measurements to describe antler size using principal component analysis (PCA). PC1 (explaining 80% of variance in antler size) was significantly affected by lung nematodes burden and PC3 (explaining 5% of variance) by abomasum nematode burden. We will additionally present results of analyses investigating the effect of MHC genotype on parasite load.