Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.S. in Biological Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Richard Buchholz

Second Advisor

Jason Hoeksema

Third Advisor

Paul K. Lago

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

Animal mating systems are often characterized by intense competition for mates and resources. Despite how common this conflict is, mating systems exist in which some adult males of breeding age seem to not participate. These apathetic males may be exhibiting alternative reproductive strategies, or simply delaying maturation to conserve resources for future breeding attempts. In populations of the poorly studied, near-threatened Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata), males have been reported to be either "breeding" or "non-breeding," apparently irrespective of age, although empirical data are scarce. This thesis has three main objectives for establishing a better understanding of the Ocellated Turkey's mating system. The first objective is to create an ethogram of Ocellated Turkey mating behavior to facilitate comparisons between studies and with its well-studied congener, the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). The second goal is to use behavioral data, along with measures of individual condition, to investigate the existence of dichotomous male strategies and correlates of female preference for males. The final aim is to investigate the effects of inadvertent human disturbance on the mating system of the Ocellated Turkey, in addition to the fitness of wildlife in general. In the present study, I create the first formal ethogram of Ocellated Turkey action patterns, using behavioral data from turkeys in Orange Walk District, Belize. Behavioral data were used, along with measures of sexual ornamentation and parasite load, to investigate the veracity of multiple male reproductive strategies existing, and also to uncover which behaviors and morphological characteristics of males are attractive to females in this species. I report that, despite a small sample size, there is support for alternative reproductive tactics in the Ocellated Turkey. In addition, human disturbance seems to fundamentally alter the turkey's mating structure. A meta-analysis of recent studies addressing how inadvertent human disturbance affects wildlife is also included here, which suggests a negative impact of disturbance on the fitness of individual wildlife.

Included in

Biology Commons

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