acta ethologica

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1–8 | Cite as

Sex/age differences in foraging, vigilance and alertness in a social herbivore

  • Ilaria Pecorella
  • Niccolò Fattorini
  • Elisabetta Macchi
  • Francesco FerrettiEmail author
Original Paper


Antipredator strategies and social factors may influence vigilance behaviour in herbivores. Vigilance can differ between sex/age classes, but information is contradictory in the existing literature. We investigated sex/age differences of vigilance in fallow deer Dama dama, in a Mediterranean area. Females (> 1 year old) showed a lower proportion of time foraging and a greater alertness rate than males (≥ 1 years old). Decrease of vigilance with increasing group size was observed for females and adult males, but not for young and subadult males, suggesting that group-size effects on vigilance were not consistent across individuals of different sex/age classes. Most likely, females tended to reduce the predation risk for their offspring through a comparatively greater duration and frequency of vigilance. Young/subadult males showed a greater alertness than adult males, which may depend on intraspecific competition in larger groups. Both antipredator and social factors could explain sex/age differences of vigilance in fallow deer.


Vigilance Head lift Antipredator behaviour Group-size effect Intraspecific competition Ungulates 



We thank the MRP Agency and A. Vivarelli Colonna, who authorised us to carry out observations on their lands. We are indebted to S. Lovari, who supported and gave feedback to F.F. throughout the study, to A. Sforzi for suggestions and backing in the initial stages of this work, and to the MRP staff for logistical support and backing. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an early draft of this manuscript.

Author contributions

F.F. planned this study, collected data in 2006-2008, performed statistical analyses, supervised all stage of this study and participated in writing up all drafts. I.P. collected data in 2012–2013 and participated in writing up all drafts. N.F. performed statistical analyses and participated in writing up. E.M. participated in data discussion and in writing up.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants.


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Copyright information

© ISPA, CRL 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilaria Pecorella
    • 1
  • Niccolò Fattorini
    • 2
  • Elisabetta Macchi
    • 1
  • Francesco Ferretti
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Veterinary SciencesUniversity of TurinGrugliascoItaly
  2. 2.Research Unit of Behavioural Ecology, Ethology and Wildlife Management, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of SienaSienaItaly

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