Léon L’Italien

MSc. Studentpeople_Leon1

Contact Information

Department of Biology
Laval University
Pavillon Alexandre-Vachon
1045, avenue de la Médecine
Québec, QC
Canada G1V 0A6
Tel:(418) 656-2131 ext. 8152



2006 – 2010: Biology Graduate Student at Laval University
2001 – 2004: BSc. Biology at Laval University

My Project

Dynamic of reindeer harems according to male age and social rank


Study of individual variability in reproduction and reproductive strategies is essential to understand population dynamics and to manage ungulate populations with accuracy. Within population of polygynous ungulates, reproductive success of males varies a lot more than females reproductive success. Males are trying to increase their reproductive success by having more sexual partners whereas females are trying to increase their phenotypic quality by selecting mates of higher quality. Competition among males is strong and can lead to formation of harems i.e. gathering of individuals during the reproductive period where a dominant male is chasing subordinate males and herding females to monopolise all the matings. In this context, harems dynamic can be define as the composition of harems and the movement of females between different harems, trying to find a mate of high quality. Study of this dynamic can help us to understand which criterias are used by females to choose a mate. Reindeer and Caribou are forming harems during the rut. Males are trying to herd females but females can move from a harem to another. Harems are not stable and the factors affecting females movements are not well knowned.

Field Work

We will be studying a reindeer population from the Kutuharju Field Reindeer Research Station in Kaamanen, Finland (69°N, 27°E). This herd is composed of semi-domestic reindeer that are free ranging for most of the year excluding the calving and rutting periods. These animals are managed and harvested by the Finnish Reindeer Herders Association, therefore, we are able to continuously gather information on the ecology and behaviour of the individual reindeer. See pictures


• Assess the effect of male age and social rank of on harems’ dynamic by using an experimental approach.
• Assess how the structure of the males segment will affect the harems’ dynamic.
• Assess whether female do make choice of their mating group or harem
• Assess the variation in females’ behaviour during the rut i.e. from pre-rut to the end of top-rut



L. L’Italien, R.B. Weladji, Ø. Holand, K.H. Røed, M. Nieminen & S.D. Côté (2012) Mating group size and stability in reindeer: the effects of male characteristics, sex ratio and male age-structure. Ethology 118:783-792

Ø. Holand, L. L’Italien, R.B. Weladji, N. Djaković, K. Røed, A.L. Hovland & M. Nieminen (2012) Shit happens – a glimpse into males’ mating tactics in a polygynous ungulate – the reindeer. Rangifer 32:65-72.