Magazine article Science News

Deceptive Cads of the Savanna: Male Topi Antelopes Will Lie to Keep Ladies from Leaving

Magazine article Science News

Deceptive Cads of the Savanna: Male Topi Antelopes Will Lie to Keep Ladies from Leaving

Article excerpt

As any dating woman knows, men can be dogs--but a new study suggests that antelopes might be a better fit.

Male topi antelopes resort to deception to keep a potential mate around, snorting as if there's a lion nearby when it seems she might wander off. It's the first report of outright mate deception in an animal other than Homo sapiens, scientists report in the July American Naturalist.

Some birds will feign a broken wing to lure a predator away from their nest, and there are reports of male monkeys and squirrels deceiving other males in the heat of competition. But the male antelope behavior "is the clearest example of tactical deception between mates in animals other than humans," comments Cornell University's H. Kern Reeve, an expert in the evolution of cooperation and conflict in animal societies.

Study leader Jakob Bro-Jorgensen discovered the devious behavior while studying topi antelopes at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Female antelopes are sexually receptive for one day only, and they spend that day visiting several males, munching grass and mating.

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Bro-Jorgensen noticed that when a female started to wander away from a male's territory, the male would look in the direction she was headed, prick his ears and snort loudly--the same snort the antelopes use when they notice a lion, leopard or other predator approaching.

"It was quite funny--it made me laugh," says Bro-Jorgensen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Liverpool in England. …

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