Maternal weight, offspring competitive ability, and the evolution of communal breeding

Sarah J. Hodge, Matthew B. V. Bell, Francis Mwanguhya, Solomon Kyabulima, Ruth C. Waldick, Andy F. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite the widespread occurrence of communal breeding in animal societies, the fitness consequences for mothers are poorly understood. One factor that may have an important influence on the net benefits mothers gain from breeding communally is the competitive ability of their offspring, as mothers are likely to gain substantial advantages from producing young who can outcompete the offspring of other females for access to resources. Here, we investigate the factors that influence offspring competition in the communally breeding banded mongoose (Mungos mungo). We show that heavy offspring are more likely to win competitive interactions with their littermates. Heavy offspring also receive more care and are more likely to survive to independence in large communal litters where competition is most intense. Our results also indicate that offspring weight at emergence is positively correlated with the weight of the mother at conception. As a consequence, the offspring of heavy mothers are likely to enjoy marked competitive advantages during early life. Together, our findings strongly suggest that the competitive ability of offspring will influence the costs and benefits that females experience while breeding communally and highlights the need for closer examination of the factors that influence offspring competitive ability and the influence this may have on the evolution of communal breeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-735
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Volume20
Issue number4
Early online date11 May 2009
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2009

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