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Reprod Fertil Dev. 1997;9(1):1-16.

Fertility control of mammal pests and the conservation of endangered marsupials.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Populations are bounded by negative feedbacks operating through fertility or mortality, termed population regulation. If fertility is artificially reduced, the average size of the population is also reduced, but only under certain conditions. If (i) juvenile survival or (ii) adult survival improve due to lower fertility, or (iii) territoriality limits populations, the effects of lower birth rate will not change population size unless such reduction exceeds the effects of these processes. Published data on population trends and birth rates have allowed a comparison among species of instantaneous rates of change. The intrinsic rate of increase, rm, and population variability are both related to body size, because birth rates and survivorship are also related to body size. These rates are trade-offs as adaptations. Populations of species in exotic habitats may fluctuate more than when they are in their indigenous habitats. Fertility control could reduce such fluctations. Marsupials have lower birth rates than eutherians, and so rely more on survivorship, perhaps as an adaptation to unpredictable environments. Compromising survival by either habitat change or increased predation will affect marsupials more than eutherians. This explains why many marsupial populations are declining towards extinction.

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