Image: Fallow buck
Trenton Garner
A fallow buck can groan once a second during breeding season to attract females. Those with the deepest voices seem to have more luck with the ladies.
updated 9/3/2008 5:33:27 PM ET 2008-09-03T21:33:27

This new finding might do Barry White proud — deeper voices can help male deer get it on.

Scientists investigated male fallow deer (Dama dama), which regularly groan 60 mating calls per minute during breeding season to attract females — although they can groan up to 90 times per minute right after sex.

"They must be the most vocal deer species in the world," said researcher Alan McElligott, a behavioral ecologist now at the University of Nottingham in England.

After tracking a herd of the deer from dawn until dusk for a month in Ireland, sometimes in heavy rain, the researchers discovered the males with the deepest groans were typically luckiest at love. These bucks were not just the best lovers — they also were the best fighters in contests for dominance among the males (though they were not the always biggest in terms of body size).

Calls also can signal dominance among primates — including humans. For example, men with deep voices are typically seen as more masculine, and even have more kids.

"People tend to think of primates as special and better than anything else, and it's important when we can see other animals do similar things as we do," McElligott told LiveScience. "It's important to understand where speech came from in humans, and to do that we have to understand the evolutionary history of other animals as well, to see what we have in common and what's different."

The link between how dominant these bucks are and how deep their groans are might be hormones such as testosterone, suggested researcher Elisabetta Vannoni, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Vannoni and McElligott detailed their findings Sept. 3 in the journal PLoS ONE. The study was funded by grants from the University of Zurich and the Swiss Academy of Sciences.

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