Factors affecting horn size in wild Caprinae are of biological and socio-economic interest because several species are selectively harvested on the basis of this heritable character. We analysed temporal trends in horn size in two mountain ungulates from south-eastern Spain, the Iberian wild goat Capra pyrenaica and the aoudad Ammotragus lervia. Trophy harvest is the main way in which these two species are exploited, although ‘poor-quality’ aoudads are also selectively removed. In recent years, both populations have suffered drastic decreases in number due to outbreaks of sarcoptic mange that led to the suspension of hunting for several years. Horn length in harvested male wild goats and aoudads declined during our study period. Over an 18-year period, the mean age of male goats shot as trophies rose by four years, while the age of trophy-harvested aoudads decreased by around six months over a 9-year period. Age and environmental conditions during the first few years of life explained 20% of variance in horn size in Iberian wild goat and 53% in aoudad. Population density early in life explained much of the reduction in goat horn size over time. Nevertheless, the major fall in population densities after the sarcoptic mange outbreaks did not lead to a recovery in horn size in either species. We suggest that the selective removal of large-horned animals may contribute to a decline in horn size. Other factors that may also explain the observed pattern include changes in interspecific competition, long-lasting maternal effects and reduced carrying capacity due to overgrazing during high density periods. Unfortunately, our data sets did not allow us to account for the possible effects of these factors.
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Vol. 17 • No. 1