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Moaning moose cows provoke punch-ups among bulls

Alaskan wilderness just like Newcastle on a Friday night

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Researchers from Idaho State University have proved that moose mating rituals follow a similar pattern to that displayed among humans in Newcastle pubs on a Friday night – that females moaning about sexual advances by inadequate males increases the chance of bloke-on-bloke violence.

Scientists already knew that a female moose will "protest moan" when approached by an amorous stud during the autumn rutting season, when the chaps battle it out for the chance to mate with picky girls. While a male might couple with various partners, the polygynous nature of moose society means the ladies take just one partner, and are evidently keen to hook up with the right beau.

Dr Terry Bowyer and his team ventured into Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve and observed that Alces alces gigas females actually moaned more when approached by smaller males, to "reduce harassment" and "assure a mating opportunity with the most dominant male".

Regarding the immediate result of this whining, Bowyer explained to the BBC: "Male aggression was more common when females gave protest moans than when they did not, indicating that this vocalisation incited male-male aggression."

The researchers conclude in their abstract in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology: "Such a subtle mechanism of indirect mate choice by females may occur in other vertebrates in which choice is limited by a mating system in which male-male combat and male dominance over females reduces opportunities for female choice. The importance of female choice may be undervalued in studies of sexual selection in mammals." ®

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