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Proc Biol Sci. 1995 Jul 22;261(1360):19-24.

Reproductive costs and litter size in the bank vole.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.


The potential reproductive costs for free-ranging bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) offspring and mothers were assessed by manipulating litter size and by determining the effects of nursing varied numbers of offspring. Litter enlargement did not increase the number of weanlings per mother. The mass of juveniles was significantly lower in the enlarged litters and higher in the reduced litters, compared to the control group. However, the survival of juveniles from weaning aged three months did not depend on their mass at weaning. Data from a previous study (Mappes et al. 1995) indicated that a higher mass at weaning may increase juveniles' abilities to maturate and breed during their summer of birth. Manipulation of litter size did not significantly affect the mass or survival of mothers or the success of subsequent breeding. The size of home ranges did correlate positively with the initial litter size. However, space use by females did not change with the degree of manipulation. Our results indicate that females nursing enlarged litters produce smaller offspring at weaning with no residual effects on future maternal survival or reproduction. Mothers did not seem to compensate the nursing costs with increased parental effort (which should be reflected in the condition of mothers or in the use of resources), for example, in an enlarged size of home range. Probably the possibility of obtaining a larger home range is constrained by the other breeding females, in a saturated breeding population. These results may support the optimal investment hypothesis that a female will produce a particular litter size which gives the best reproductive success in the particular environment where offspring are nursed.

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