We assessed sexual variation in food quality and gut macrostructure in adult male and pregnant female sika deer, Cervus nippon (Temminck, 1838), in Japan during winter. These variations might have important implications relative to sexual differences in habitat use, forage acquisition, and digestive strategy. According to the sexual dimorphism-body size hypothesis the larger males would feed on poorer forage and have heavier stomach contents and heavier intestine contents and longer intestines than smaller females. However, the food quality in rumen contents of males was higher than, or at least similar with, that of pregnant females. In correspondence to food quality, the relative weights of stomach contents and intestines with contents, the relative lengths of intestines to the lengths of body and total intestines in pregnant females were similar to adult males. The relative weights of omasum and abomasum tissues in pregnant females were greater than in males. Our findings suggest sexual differences in feeding strategy in sika deer in Japan during winter. To meet greater nutritional demands of high metabolic rate and gestation, pregnant females seemed to maintain a greater volume of digesta in guts and had more stomach tissues than expected by the sexual dimorphism-body size hypothesis to compensate for poorer forage quality.
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