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Sources of variation in maternal allocation in a long-lived mammal

May 1, 2020


  1. Life history theory predicts allocation of energy to reproduction varies with maternal age, but additional maternal features may be important to the allocation of energy to reproduction.
  2. We aimed to characterize age‐specific variation in maternal allocation and assess the relationship between maternal allocation and other static and dynamic maternal features.
  3. Mass measurements of 531 mothers and pups were used with Bayesian hierarchical models to explain the relationship between diverse maternal attributes and both the proportion of mass allocated by Weddell seal mothers, and the efficiency of mass transfer from mother to pup during lactation as well as the weaning mass of pups.
  4. Our results demonstrated that maternal mass was strongly and positively associated with the relative reserves allocated by a mother and a pup's weaning mass but that the efficiency of mass transfer declines with maternal parturition mass. Birthdate was positively associated with proportion mass allocation and pup weaning mass, but mass transfer efficiency was predicted to be highest at the mean birthdate. The relative allocation of maternal reserves declined with maternal age but the efficiency of mass transfer to pups increases, suggestive of selective disappearance of poor‐quality mothers.
  5. These findings highlight the importance of considering multiple maternal features when assessing variation in maternal allocation.
Publication Year 2020
Title Sources of variation in maternal allocation in a long-lived mammal
DOI 10.1111/1365-2656.13243
Authors Kaitlin R. Macdonald, Jay J. Rotella, Robert A. Garrott, William A. Link
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Animal Ecology
Index ID 70211830
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center