YFF project - NFR - a 5 year project (2004-2009) - finished

Processes in the life history and dynamics of managed ungulate populations

Background: Understanding the processes determining fluctuations in population sizes is the main aim in population ecology, and such insight is critically needed for proper nature management and conservation worldwide. Populations of large mammals are strongly structured according to age, sex, individual attributes, temporal factors (e.g., climate) and spatial factors. A detailed understanding of the interactions between these factors, i.e. the detailed life history, has proven necessary to successfully predict population dynamics. We have a good basic understanding of this in naturally regulated populations. However, evolutionary and ecological constraints are different in heavily managed populations, due to strongly male-biased harvesting or poaching and subsequent skews in the sex ratio and age structure. The management paradigm for large polygynous mammals are that males are not limiting populations, as a single male can inseminate large number of females. However, time is a severe constraint in strongly seasonal environments for species increasing fitness if able to raise offspring each breeding cycle. Strongly skewed sex ratios may delay breeding, or as evident for the Saiga antelope, it may even lead to a critically low proportion of females breeding when a lower critical threshold proportion of males are reached. At a mechanistic level, there is little information regarding whether key life-history features such as timing and rate of calving are due to changes in patterns of ovulation, conception, fetal loss or gestation length, and few studies have linked individual foraging processes to life history.

This project is linking together most of my research into a common framework - enabling me to ask more general questions using data from 4 main systems. Key topics:

  1. The timing of a key life history event in strongly seasonal environments: ovulation.
  2. The ecology of rut: The role of males for the dynamics of ungulate populations.
  3. Linking individual foraging processes to life history.

System 1 - Red deer project: Mainly analyses of life history traits such as body weight and size, ovulation and tooth wear and some behavioural data - typically long-term monitoring data (1965-present). This involves a long-term cooperation with Rolf Langvatn at UNIS and NINA-Trondheim who have collected most of the data and know the red deer better than anyone else, Nils Chr. Stenseth who is a population biologist with a very broad field of interest, and frequently Nigel G. Yoccoz (University of Tromsø) who is a biostatistician.

System 2 - Sheep grazing project: This is a large-scale experiment on impact of sheep grazing on plants, invertebrates and small rodents, and it also involves detailed study of (density-dependent) foraging ecology of sheep and how this in turn affect growth rates of lambs. This is a management related project receiving most funding from program "Miljø 2015" over the Research Council of Norway. The link to the YFF project is how foraging processes affect life history of sheep at different densities.

System 3 - Saiga project: The project is entitled "Reproductive Ecology of the Critically Endangered Saiga Antelope" (INTAS proposal 03-51-3579). The aim is to learn more about the population ecology of this endangered species. Project leader is E.J. Milner Gulland at Imperial College - London. Aline Kühl was a PhD student, and she finished in 2008. The project involves saiga experts from Russia, Kazaksthan and Usbekisthan. 

System 4 - Semi-domestic reindeer project: I work together with project leader Øystein Holand at NLH, Ås on semi-domestic reindeer - related to effects of changing the population sex and age structure on calving. 


Bischof, R., Mysterud, A., and Swenson, J.E. 2008. Should hunting mortality mimic the patterns of natural mortality? Biology Letters 4: 307-310.

Bischof, R., Mysterud, A., and Swenson, J.E. 2009. With or without equations: what are the dos and don’ts of hunting? Biology Letters 5: 213.

Bischof, R., Swenson, J.E., Yoccoz, N.G., Mysterud, A., and Gimenez, O. 2009. The magnitude and selectivity of natural and multiple anthropogenic mortality causes in hunted brown bears. Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 656-665.

Godvik, I.M.R., Loe, L.E., Vik, J.O., Veiberg, V., Langvatn, R., and Mysterud, A. 2009. Temporal scales, trade-offs and functional responses in habitat selection of red deer. Ecology 90: 699-710.

Loe, L.E., Bonenfant, C., Mysterud, A., Severinsen, T., Øritsland, N.A., Langvatn, R., and Stenseth, N.C. 2007. Activity pattern of arctic reindeer in a predator-free environment – no need to keep a daily rhythm? Oecologia 152: 617-624. [pdf]

Loe, L.E., Irvine, R.J., Bonenfant, C., Stien, A., Langvatn, R., Albon, S.D., Mysterud, A., and Stenseth, N.C. 2006. Testing five hypotheses of sexual segregation in an arctic ungulate. Journal of Animal Ecology 75: 485-496. [pdf]

Holand, Ø., Mysterud, A., Røed, K.H., Coulson, T., Gjøstein, H., Weladji, R.B., and Nieminen, M. 2006. Adaptive adjustment of offspring sex ratio and maternal reproductive effort in an iteroparous mammal. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 273: 293-299. [pdf]

Kühl, A., Mysterud, A., Erdnenov, G.I., Lushchekina, A.A., Grachev, I.A., Bekenov, A.B., and Milner-Gulland, E.J. 2007. The "big spenders" of the steppe: sex-specific maternal allocation and twinning in the saiga antelope. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 274: 1293-1299. [pdf]

Kühl, A., Mysterud, A., Grachev, I.A., Bekenov, A.B., Ubushaev, B.S., Lushchekina, A.A., and Milner-Gulland, E.J. 2009. Monitoring population productivity in the saiga antelope. Animal Conservation 12: 355-363.

Martínez-Jauregui, M., San Miguel-Ayanz, A., Mysterud, A., Rodríguez-Vigal, C., Clutton-Brock, T., Langvatn, R. and Coulson, T. 2009. Are local weather, NDVI or NAO consistent determinants of female red deer weight across three contrasting European countries? Global Change Biology 15: 1727-1738.

Mobæk, R., Mysterud, A., Loe, L.E., Holand, Ø., and Austrheim, G. 2009. Density dependent and temporal variability in habitat selection by a large herbivore; an experimental approach. Oikos 118: 209-218. [pdf]

Mysterud, A., Barton, K., Jêdrzejewska, B., Krasinski, Z., Niedzialkowska, M., Kamler, J.F., Yoccoz, N.G., and Stenseth, N.C. 2007. Population development and variation in vital rates of the highly endangered European bison (Bison bonasus) in Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland over the last 50 years. Animal Conservation 10: 77-87. [pdf]

Mysterud, A., and Bischof, R. Can compensatory culling offset undesirable evolutionary consequences of trophy hunting? Journal of Animal Ecology: in press. Online early [pdf]

Mysterud, A., Bonenfant, C., Loe, L.E., Langvatn, R., Yoccoz, N.G., and Stenseth, N.C. 2008. The timing of male reproductive effort relative to female ovulation in a capital breeder. Journal of Animal Ecology 77: 469-477. [pdf]

Mysterud, A., Bonenfant, C., Loe, L.E., Langvatn, R., Yoccoz, N.G., and Stenseth, N.C. 2008. Age-specific feeding cessation in male red deer during rut. Journal of Zoology 275: 407-412. [pdf] Highlighted

Mysterud, A., Tryjanowski, P., Panek, M., Pettorelli, N., and Stenseth, N.C. 2007. Inter-specific synchrony of two contrasting ungulates: wild boar (Sus scrofa) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Oecologia 151: 232-239. [pdf]

Mysterud, A., Tryjanowski, P., and Panek, M. 2006. Selectivity of harvesting differs between local and foreign roe deer hunters – trophy stalkers have the first shot at the right place. Biology Letters 2: 632-635. [pdf]

Mysterud, A., Meisingset, E.L., Veiberg, V., Langvatn, R., Solberg, E.J., Loe, L.E., and Stenseth, N.C. 2007. Monitoring population size of red deer: an evaluation of two types of census data from Norway. Wildlife Biology 13: 285-298. [pdf]

Mysterud, A., Røed, K.H., Holand, Ø., Yoccoz, N.G., and Nieminen, M. 2009. Age-related gestation length adjustment in a large iteroparous mammal at northern latitude. Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 1002-1006.

Mysterud, A., Yoccoz, N.G., and Langvatn, R. 2009. Maturation trends in red deer females over 39 years in heavily harvested populations. Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 595-599.

Mysterud, A. Yoccoz, N.G., Langvatn, R., Pettorelli, N., and Stenseth, N.C. 2008. Hierarchical path analysis of deer responses to direct and indirect effects of climate in northern forest. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B 363: 2359-2368. [pdf]

Parker, H., Rosell, F., and Mysterud, A. 2007. Harvesting of males delays female breeding in a socially monogamous mammal; the beaver. Biology Letters 3: 106-108. [pdf]

Pettorelli, N., Gaillard, J.-M., Mysterud, A., Duncan, P., Stenseth, N.C., Delorme, D., and Van Laere, G. 2006. Using a proxy of plant productivity (NDVI) to find key periods for animal performance: the case of roe deer. Oikos 112: 565-572. [pdf]

Pettorelli, N., Vik, J.O., Mysterud, A., Gaillard, J.-M., Tucker, C. and Stenseth, N.C. 2005. Using the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to assess ecological responses to environmental change. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 503-510. [pdf]

Røed, K.H., Holand, Ø., Mysterud, A., Tverdal, A, Kumpula, J., and Nieminen, M. 2007. Male phenotypic quality influences offspring sex ratio in a polygynous ungulate. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 274: 727-733. [pdf]

Veiberg, V., Loe, L.E., Mysterud, A., Solberg, E.J., Langvatn, R., and Stenseth, N.C. 2007. The ecology and evolution of tooth wear in red deer and moose. Oikos 116: 1805-1818. [pdf]

Veiberg, V., Mysterud, A., Bjørkvoll, E., Langvatn, R., Loe, L.E., Irvine, J., Bonenfant, C., Couweleers, F., and Stenseth, N.C. 2007. Evidence for a trade-off between early growth and tooth wear in Svalbard reindeer. Journal of Animal Ecology 76: 1139-1148. [pdf]

Veiberg, V., Mysterud, A., Irvine, R.J., Sørmo, W., and Langvatn, R. 2009. Increased mass of reticulo-rumen tissue and contents with advancing age in Svalbard reindeer. Journal of Zoology 278: 15-23.

Veiberg, V., Mysterud, A., Gaillard, J.-M., Delorme, D., Van Laere, G., and Klein, F. 2007. Bigger teeth for longer life? Longevity and molar height in two roe deer populations. Biology Letters 3: 268-270. [pdf]