A full grown bull elk is the embodiment of magnificence, and they grow their massive antlers in order to intimidate and/or fight rival males for access to females.
Elk antlers can grow 1 inch per day and have a combined weight of 40lbs, and to females, the more antler points the better.
To grow such large, many pointed antlers, certain nutrients and minerals have to be shunted from other areas of the body, resulting in a minor form of osteoporosis (brittle bones). Males then have to engage in many physical battles with these more fragile skeletons.
During the mating season, or rut, males also do not eat and lose almost a 1/4 of their bodyweight with only a few months to try to gain it back before winter arrives.
All of these factors combined are why the size of antlers and the winners of male-male battles matter so much to females—they are an accurate representation of male fitness because only the best can produce the largest antlers, win the most battles, and still survive the grueling winter. So if females mate with these males, they will pass on better genes for survival to their offspring.
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