Maternal care in white-tailed deer : trade-off between maintenance and reproduction under food restriction

Authors: Therrien, Jean-FrançoisCôté, Steeve D.Festa-Bianchet, Marco; Ouellet, Jean-Pierre
Abstract: Lactation is the most energetically costly component of maternal investment in mammals. For large temperate herbivores, summer is characterized by relatively abundant forage but also high energetic needs for lactation and recovery from winter mass loss. We experimentally restricted food supply by about 20%, and compared the nursing and foraging behaviours of control and food-restricted adult female white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, and their fawns during lactation. We considered two fawn ages: 0–30 days (after which time spent suckling dropped markedly) and 30–80 days (the end of the nursing period). From 0 to 30 days of age, food-restricted fawns performed 17 more suckling bouts/day and spent twice as much time suckling than control fawns. Compared with controls, food-restricted fawns gained 26% less mass from birth to 80 days. Body growth was inversely related to time spent suckling and to the frequency of nursing bouts, but positively related to survival. Food-restricted fawns had twice as many suckling solicitations and rejected suckling attempts as control fawns. Solicitations for allosuckling and successful allosuckling bouts were also more than twice as high in the food-restricted group as in the control group. Mothers and fawns from the food-restricted group spent more time foraging than control individuals. We conclude that a reduction in food availability during summer, which may occur under high intraspecific competition, should lead to drastic changes in foraging and nursing behaviours as well as reduced growth rate of juveniles of large northern herbivores.
Document Type: Article de recherche
Issue Date: 3 December 2007
Open Access Date: Restricted access
Document version: VoR
This document was published in: Animal behaviour, Vol. 75, 235-243 (2008)
Alternative version: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.04.030
Collection:Articles publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture

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