The Strong Silent--or at Least Quieter--Type

Among bison, the boldest bellowers are not the best at finding mates

04-01-2009 // Hannah Schardt

FROM THE WORLD of wild animals, yet another lesson in the art of attracting a mate: Female bison, like many female humans, are not impressed by loudmouths. A new study by researchers at the University of California–Davis and San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University finds that during bison mating season, the most successful males are those whose bellows—the low-frequency vocalizations male bison use to challenge each other—are the quietest.

Lead author Megan Wyman of UC Davis, who spent two summers monitoring and recording 325 wild bison in the Sandhills region of Nebraska, set out expecting to find that males that were bigger, stronger and more attractive to females would also prove to be the loudest. “But instead, we found the opposite,” she says. In fact, the least successful bulls—those that attracted the fewest mates and sired the fewest offspring—were at least 50 percent louder than their most successful rivals.

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