Pipia, Anna (2008) Social behaviour, response to environmental factors, and behavioural modifications of mothers in relation to lamb presence in a free-ranging mouflon (Ovis orientalis musimon) population in Sardinia. Doctoral Thesis.
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I investigated (1st part) grouping pattern in a wild Sardinian mouflon population. Groups with lambs showed larger size than male groups or female aggregations without lambs, especially during the lambing season. This reflected the anti-predator tacticts adopted by mothers to benefit of the dilution effect towards predation. In the 2nd part I investigated the influence of biotic and abiotic factors in shaping mouflon activity patterns. Mouflon modified seasonally their activity pattern according to light-darkness cycle and air temperatures, and this produced a marked 24-hour bimodal pattern. Males were generally less active than females except during the rut, when the former showed similar activity levels to the latter due to the reproductive spur. During lambing, only mothers persisted in being active during the day despite the increase on air temperature due to lamb presence. As a consequence, in the 3rd part I deeply investigated the whole set of behavioural tactics (e.g. flight distance and whistling behaviour) adopted by mothers during lambing. Mothers showed greater use of Mediterranean scrubland (i.e, the habitat providing good concealments for lambs) and a lower use of meadows than non-mothers. These results confirm that ungulate mothers probably trade highquality foraging habitats for more secure ones and may be forced to increase activity to compensate for the energetic costs of reproduction and the use of sub-optimal habitats during birth and lactation.
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