Title

Similarities between female meadow voles mating during post-partum oestrus and raising two concurrent litters and females raising only one litter

Abstract

In many species of small mammals, females undergo post-partum oestrus soon after delivering a litter, becoming pregnant while suckling the previous litter. Females raising two concurrent litters need to allocate many more resources to reproduction than females raising only one litter. Consequently, there may be differences between litters raised concurrently or singly. We investigated this issue in the meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, a species in which most females in the wild reproduce during post-partum oestrus. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that the development of pups in two concurrent litters differs from that of pups in a single litter. To test this hypothesis, we measured the following variables for concurrent and singly reared litters: gestation length; litter size; sex ratio; bodyweight of males and females at different ages; total litter weight at weaning; growth rates; and intra-litter variation in body mass. Except for bodyweight of males at 60 days of age, which was higher in the first of the concurrent litters, none of the variables differed among the litters. These results indicate that females are able to adjust to differing loads of maternal care to provide equivalent resources to concurrent litters and singly reared litters. © CSIRO 2006.

Publication Title

Reproduction, Fertility and Development

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