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American Pronghorn

Social Adaptations and the Ghosts of Predators Past

Pronghorn antelope are the fastest runners in North America, clocked at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. Yet none of their current predators can come close to running this fast. Pronghorn also gather in groups, a behavior commonly viewed as a "safety in numbers" defense. But again, none of their living predators are fearsome enough to merit such a response.

In this elegantly written book, John A. Byers argues that these mystifying behaviors evolved in response to the dangerous predators with whom pronghorn shared their grassland home for nearly four million years: among them fleet hyenas, lions, and cheetahs. Although these predators died out ten thousand years ago, pronghorn still behave as if they were present—as if they were living with the ghosts of predators past.

Byers’s provocative hypothesis will stimulate behavioral ecologists and mammalogists to consider whether other species’ adaptations are also haunted by selective pressures from predators past. The book will also find a ready audience among evolutionary biologists and paleontologists.

318 pages | 41 halftones, 111 line drawings, 4 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology, Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

Ch. 1: Survivors from Another World
Ch. 2: Methods and Materials
Ch. 3: The Selfish Herd: Modal Social Organization
Ch. 4: Birth and the Hiding Strategy
Ch. 5: Behavioral Development
Ch. 6: Lifetime Dominance Ranks of Females and Males
Ch. 7: Female Reproduction: The Level of Expenditure
Ch. 8: Female Reproduction: Age, Rank, and Individual Differences
Ch. 9: Male Reproduction: A Short, Dangerous Life
Ch. 10: The Mating System: Conflict and Cooperation between the Sexes
Ch. 11: The Ghosts of Predators Past
App. 1: Ungulate Populations on the National Bison Range
App. 2: The National Bison Range Pronghorn Population
App. 3: A Partial List of Native Flowering Grassland Plants Found in Pronghorn Habitat on the National Bison Range
App. 4: Dates of Birth and Death, Focal Hours of Observation, and the Nature of Early Social Experience of Individual Males and Females That Were Followed Longitudinally
App. 5: Measurement of Male Size
App. 6: Measurement of Rut Activity Costs of Females
Subject Index


The Wildlife Society: Wildlife Society Publications Award

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