The relationship between tooth wear, habitat quality and late-life reproduction in a wild red deer population

Daniel H. Nussey, Bonnie Metherell, Kelly Moyes, Alison Donald, Fiona E. Guinness, Tim H. Clutton-Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Molar tooth wear is considered an important proximate mechanism driving patterns of senescence in ungulates but few studies have investigated the causes of variation in molar wear or their consequences for reproductive success.

2. In this study, we assessed molar tooth wear at death among red deer Cervus elaphus of known age on the Isle of Rum, Scotland.

3. First molar height showed a decelerating decline with age. In females, the rates of molar wear with age varied with location of home range and individuals experiencing low resource competition showed reduced molar wear. We suggest that this spatial variation in molar wear is related to differences in the availability of high-quality grazing habitat and levels of resource competition.

4. There was no evidence that females with more heavily worn molars had reduced reproductive performance late in life or that first molar height was associated with reproductive senescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-412
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

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