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The impact of competition on elephant musth strategies: a game–theoretic model

Wyse, John Max; Hardy, Ian C.W.; Yon, Lisa; Mesterton-Gibbons, Mike

Authors

John Max Wyse

Ian C.W. Hardy

LISA YON lisa.yon@nottingham.ac.uk
Associate Professor

Mike Mesterton-Gibbons



Abstract

Mature male African Savannah elephants are known to periodically enter a temporary state of heightened aggression called “musth,” often linked with increased androgens, particularly testosterone. Sexually mature males are capable of entering musth at any time of year, and will often travel long distances to find estrous females. When two musth bulls or two non-musth bulls encounter one another, the agonistic interaction is usually won by the larger male. However, When a smaller musth bull encounters a larger non-musth bull, the smaller musth male can win. The relative mating success of musth males is due partly to this fighting advantage, and partly to estrous females’ general preference for musth males.

Though musth behavior has long been observed and documented, the evolutionary advantages of musth remain poorly understood. Here we develop a game–theoretic model of male musth behavior which assumes musth duration as a parameter, and distributions of small, medium and large musth males are predicted in both time and space. The predicted results are similar to the musth timing behavior observed in the Amboseli National Park elephant population, and further results are generated with relevance to Samburu National Park. We discuss small male musth behavior, the effects of estrous female spatial heterogeneity on musth timing, conservation applications, and the assumptions underpinning the model.

Journal Article Type Article
Journal Journal of Theoretical Biology
Print ISSN 0022-5193
Electronic ISSN 1095-8541
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Wyse, J. M., Hardy, I. C., Yon, L., & Mesterton-Gibbons, M. (in press). The impact of competition on elephant musth strategies: a game–theoretic model. Journal of Theoretical Biology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtbi.2017.01.025
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtbi.2017.01.025
Publisher URL http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022519317300255
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0

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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0





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