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The Mating System and Life History of the Polar Bear Open Access


Other title
mating system
lifetime reproductive success
sexual selection
Ursus maritimus
polar bear
life history
climate change
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Richardson, Evan Shaun
Supervisor and department
Derocher, Andrew (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Boyce, Mark (Biological Sciences)
Ferguson, Steve (Zoology - University of Manitoba)
Stirling, Ian (Biological Sciences)
Hik, David (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Mating systems evolve in response to factors that influence the distribution and availability of mates. In turn mating systems can influence species life histories as a result of sexual selection. Most of what is known about sexual selection in large mammals comes from long-term studies of gregarious species and little information exists on the mating systems and opportunity for sexual selection in solitary carnivores. In this thesis I combine long-term mark-recapture and genetic data to describe the mating system and the opportunity for sexual selection in the western Hudson Bay polar bear (Ursus maritimus) population. Using genetically based parentage assignments I provide the first estimates of lifetime reproductive success in male and female polar bears. These data along with information on individual phenotypes are then used to explicitly test the hypothesis that male biased size dimorphism in polar bears is the result of sexual selection on male traits. I conclude my thesis by examining long-term trends in sea ice availability in western Hudson Bay and examine the potential influence of sea ice conditions during early development on polar bear growth. The overall objective of this thesis is to provide much needed insight into the mating system and life history of polar bears, to aid further investigations into the evolutionary ecology of the species.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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