Conservative maternal care in an iteroparous mammal : a resource allocation experiment

Authors: Therrien, Jean-FrançoisCôté, Steeve D.Festa-Bianchet, Marco; Ouellet, Jean-Pierre
Abstract: When resources are limited, life history theory predicts a trade-off between growth, reproduction and survival. In summer, lactating females of temperate large herbivores such as the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) normally have access to abundant forage but also face the high energetic needs of lactation and recovery from winter mass loss. At high population density, however, females may face a trade-off between allocating resources for maintenance and for reproduction. To simulate the effects of increased intra-specific competition at high density, we measured for 2 years how an experimental food restriction of approximately 20% affected current reproduction and body mass changes of adult females and their fawns during the fawning and lactation periods. Fawn survival decreased 35%, and fawn growth decreased 26% in the food-restricted treatment. There was no effect of food restriction on female mass. Irrespective of treatment, however, lactating females gained 30 g/day less than non-lactating females, and females that had weaned a fawn the previous year gained 20 g/day less than females that had not. We conclude that when resources were scarce, females adopted a conservative strategy favouring their own survival, mass recovery and future reproductive potential over their current reproduction, probably to maximise their lifetime reproductive success.
Document Type: Article de recherche
Issue Date: 8 August 2007
Open Access Date: Restricted access
Document version: VoR
This document was published in: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Vol. 62, 193-199 (2007)
Alternative version: 10.1007/s00265-007-0453-8
Collection:Articles publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture

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