Evol Ecol Res 6: 433-442 (2004) Full PDF if your library subscribes.
Effect of birth and weaning mass on growth,
survival and reproduction in the bank vole
Hannu Ylönen,* Taina J. Horne and Marjaana Luukkonen
Department of Biological and Environmental Science and Konnevesi Research Station, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, Jyväskylä 40014, Finland
Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
Among mammals, physiological constraints and resource availability limit resources for reproduction. Limited resources can be allocated to either large litters with small offspring or to fewer but heavier pups. High birth weight is thought to be related to better survival and earlier onset of reproduction. We studied the effects of birth and weaning masses on future survival and reproduction of bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) in a combined laboratory and field experiment. We reared voles in the laboratory and cross-fostered pups after birth to randomize maternal effects before weaning. Using 256 laboratory-bred individuals, we conducted two separate field experiments over 3–4 weeks in large outdoor enclosures to study the effects of birth and weaning weights on individual survival and reproduction. Males that were heavy at birth were also heavy as adults. Females heavier at birth produced larger litters under favourable conditions of the earlier replicate, but not in the later one. Mass at birth or weaning did not affect survival. There was great variation in growth and reproduction over time presumably related to environmental conditions. The first run seemed to be more favourable, especially for body condition of adults. In the second run, the later season might have had a negative effect on the proportion of females breeding. However, most probably the voles suffered from food depletion due to heavy rains. In conclusion, we did not find any simple positive effect of birth mass on the success of individuals. It would appear that the effect of high birth mass is not an unambiguous issue in life-history evolution.
Keywords: bank vole, birth mass, compensatory growth, life histories, reproduction, survival, weaning mass.
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