Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Demarais, Stephen

Committee Member

Strickland, Bronson K.

Committee Member

Larson, Jamie

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Aspects of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) reproductive ecology remain understudied. The accuracy of the fetal age estimation equation in current use is unknown. Knowledge is also limited for female choice of secondary sexual traits like antlers and body size. To address previous fetal estimation equations, I developed a model that included litter characteristics using 110 fetuses with known ages of 54 to 175 days. To address female choice, I manipulated antler size and paired large and small males while controlling allometrically related traits. I then allowed estrus females to choose between pairs of segregated males with either large and small antlers or large and small bodies. My predictive fetal aging model generated more accurate fetal ages under a range of sample timing and composition variation. Using various behavioral indications of choice, I demonstrated that females prefer males with larger antlers and lack a preference for body size or age.



antlers||sexual selection||mate choice||fetal growth