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Analysis of Placental Scarring to Evaluate the Reproductive Output of White-Tailed Deer in Maryland

Honor Student Analysis of Placental Scarring to Evaluate the Reproductive Output of White-Tailed Deer in Maryland

Department: Biology
Symposium Year: 2013
Student(s): Lindsey Russell
Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. Thomas Lambert, Dr. Karen Keller

 

Data on reproductive output is vital in modeling the growth of populations and setting harvest limits. Therefore, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) managers would be better able to reach their management goals with such data. It is especially important in the case of white-tailed deer to understand how the population age structure influences female reproductive output as heavily harvested populations often show a highly skewed age structure and controversy exists over what age does are the most appropriate to harvest. Lifetime reproductive output has been studied in other species by analyzing placental scars. However, the effectiveness of this technique is unknown for white-tailed deer, as ruminants differ in their placental morphology from more commonly studied taxa such as rodents and carnivores. In order to examine the potential effectiveness of this technique the reproductive tracks of deer were collected from road kill and hunter harvests. The uteri of 15 deer were examined for evidence of placental scaring or pregnancy. Unfortunately, the results of the uterine analysis were inconclusive. No visible scars were found in the uteri even in cases when the doe was known to be pregnant at the time of collection. Our results show that, unfortunately gross examination of uteri is not an effective technique to examine lifetime reproduction output in white-tailed deer. More research is now needed to examine other more extensive methods. These methods could involve microscopy and or staining to find a quick, inexpensive, and effective way to gather these data. 

 

 

 

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