Having a better home range does not reduce the cost of reproduction in Soay sheep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A cost of reproduction may not be observable in the presence of environmental or individual heterogeneity because they affect the resources available to individuals. Individual space use is critical in determining both the resources available to individuals and the exposure to factors that mediate the value of these resources (e.g. competition and parasitism). Despite this, there has, to our knowledge, been little research to understand how between-individual differences in resource acquisition, caused by variation in space use, interact with environmental variation occurring at the population scale to influence estimates of the cost of reproduction in natural populations. We used long-term data from the St. Kilda Soay sheep population to understand how differences in age, relative home range quality, and average adult body mass, interacted with annual variation in population density and winter North Atlantic Oscillation index to influence over-winter survival and reproduction in the subsequent year, for females that had invested into reproduction to varying degrees. Our results suggest that Soay sheep females experience costs both in terms of future survival and future reproduction. However, we found little evidence that estimated costs of reproduction vary depending on relative home range quality. There are several possible causes for the lack of a relationship between relative home range quality and our estimate of the costs experienced by females. These include the potential for a correlation between relative home range quality and reproductive allocation to mask a relationship between home range quality and reproductive costs, as well as the potential for the benefit of higher quality home ranges being offset by higher densities. Nevertheless, our results raise questions regarding the presence or context-dependence of relationships between resource access and the estimated cost of reproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1352-1362
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number10
Early online date5 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • costs of reproduction
  • home range quality
  • resource acquisition
  • soay sheep


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