Getting ready for the winter: timing and determinants of molt in an alpine ungulate
Because growth of new hairs entails energetic costs, individual condition and access to food should determine the timing of molt. Previous studies on the timing of molt in ungulates have mostly focused on the influence of age class and reproductive status, but the effects of body condition and environmental phenology have not been evaluated. Our goal was to assess how intrinsic traits and environmental conditions determine the timing of winter coat shedding in a mountain goat population monitored for 27 years. The date of molt completion followed a U shape with age, suggesting that senescence occurs in terms of the molting process in mountain goats. Juveniles of both sexes delayed molting in a similar fashion, but molt timing differed between sexes during adulthood. Males molted progressively earlier until reaching age when reproduction peaked, after which they started delaying molting again. Females reached earliest molt dates at age of first reproduction and then progressively delayed molt date. Lactating females molted 10 days later than barren females on average, but this only occurred in females in good condition. Thus, although it has been shown that reproduction delays molt in ungulates, our results indicate that body condition can override this effect. Overall, our results revealed that access to both extrinsic and intrinsic resources is one of the key mechanisms driving molting processes in a mammalian herbivore.
Source at https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4970 .