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Title: Scraping Network Analysis: A Method to Explore Complex White-tailed Deer Mating Systems
Abstract - Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) are social animals that thrive in rural and urban settings. Scraping behavior is an olfactory reproductive communication used by White-tailed Deer to establish breeding networks. Male scraping is a complex scent-marking behavior which advertises sociosexual status and location to potential females as well as to competing males. Female scraping behavior is thought to be an estrus signal alerting males during times of optimal fertility. This study describes a new method to examine White-tailed Deer mating systems using social network analyses of scraping behavior using an urban population of White-tailed Deer as a model. First, we validated the scraping behavior at our study site in Tougaloo, MS, during the 2019–2020 breeding season. Using remote monitoring, we continuously documented scraping behaviors over 8 different scrape-site locations and found similar behavioral, temporal, and spatial patterns in our urban breeding network as reported in rural and captive deer studies. Next, we describe methods detailing how social network analyses can reveal sociality, dominance, importance, and social structure within male scraping networks. Using centrality measures, we were able to rank dominant male influencers, anticipate social conflict among rivals, and made predictions regarding the spread of communicable diseases through a male scraping network. We also detail network analyses combining both male more » and female scraping behavior to reveal a glimpse into the complexity of breeding networks. Using network measures, we were able to rank males based on competitiveness and female preference. Lastly, we generated a theoretical breeding network to explore female sociability, competitiveness, preference, and mate choice. Taken together, this work describes a new method using scraping network analysis to investigate the complexity of White-tailed Deer breeding networks. This work also demonstrates the future applications of this method for predicting the spread of communicable diseases and for predicting mate selection within White-tailed Deer mating systems. « less
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Applegate, Roger
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Southeastern naturalist
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National Science Foundation
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