Sociogenetics: Exploring fine-scale social structure of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)
The sociogenetic structure of woodland caribou was explored using non-invasive fecal sampling. Fecal pellet sampling occurred in South Jasper during the fall of (2006 to 2012) and in North Interlake during the winter (2004 to 2010). Samples were amplified at 10 microsatellite loci and unique individuals identified. We used fecal pellet morphometrics and measured fecal reproductive hormone levels to distinguish calf from adult age-classes of woodland caribou. In addition, we conducted pedigree analysis of South Jasper caribou using the COLONY 2.0 program. Results demonstrated that pellet morphology, pregnane, and testosterone were able to differentiate age-class. Additionally, South Jasper caribou herds exhibited a polygynous mating system whereby few males dominated the reproductive output (only 20%) and female reproductive output was evenly distributed (39%). This study demonstrates the ability of non-invasive fecal methods to answer important questions pertaining to the age-class, mating system and fitness of woodland caribou.
Ecology, Woodland Caribou