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Experimental manipulation of female reproduction demonstrates its fitness costs in kangaroos
- Gélin, Uriel, Wilson, Michelle E., Coulson, Graeme, Festa‐Bianchet, Marco, Mysterud, Atle
- The journal of animal ecology 2015 v.84 no.1 pp. 239-248
- Macropus giganteus, breeding season, daughters, environmental factors, females, growth traits, indeterminate growth, lactation, mammals, monitoring, mothers, parturition, prediction, probability, reproductive performance, sex allocation, sons, weaning
- When resources are scarce, female mammals should face a trade‐off between lactation and other life‐history traits such as growth, survival and subsequent reproduction. Kangaroos are ideal to test predictions about reproductive costs because they may simultaneously lactate and carry a young, and have indeterminate growth and a long breeding season. An earlier study in three of our five study populations prevented female eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) from reproducing during one reproductive season by either inserting contraceptive implants or removing very small pouch young. We explored how individual and environmental variables affect the costs of reproduction over time, combining this experimental reduction of reproductive effort with multi‐year monitoring of 270 marked females. Experimental manipulation should control for individual heterogeneity, revealing the costs of reproduction and their likely sources. We also examined the fitness consequences of reproductive effort and offspring sex among unmanipulated individuals to test whether sex allocation strategies affected trade‐offs. Costs of reproduction included longer inter‐birth intervals and lower probability of producing a young that survived to 7 months in the subsequent reproductive event. Weaning success, however, did not differ significantly between manipulated and control females. By reducing reproductive effort, manipulation appeared to increase individual condition and subsequent reproductive success. Effects of offspring sex upon subsequent reproductive success varied according to year and study population. Mothers of sons were generally more likely to have a young that survived to 7 months, compared to mothers of daughters. The fitness costs of reproduction arise from constraints in both acquisition and allocation of resources. To meet these costs, females delay subsequent parturition and may manipulate offspring sex. Reproductive tactics thus vary according to the amount of resource available to each individual, promoting a wide range in reproductive performance within and among individuals and populations.