Ecophysiology

Oecologia

, Volume 107, Issue 4, pp 463-468

First online:

Body size, litter size, timing of reproduction, and juvenile survival in the Unita ground squirrel, Spermophilus armatus

  • James F. RiegerAffiliated withConservation and Research Center, National Zoological Park

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Abstract

The timing of reproduction affected litter size, offspring mass, and offspring survival in the Uinta ground squirrel, Spermophilus armatus, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Survival of juvenile females to yearling age varied negatively with date of weaning and positively with individual offspring mass. At the same time, juveniles weaned early in the season were lighter, and juveniles weaned later in the season were heavier. The coefficient of variation for juvenile body mass, originally measured at weaning, significantly decreased by the time juveniles entered hibernation, indicating that individuals weaned early and light “caught up” in body mass to individuals weaned later and heavier. From the perspective of the mother's investment in the litter, litter size (corrected for mother's mass) decreased with later wcaning dates, while the relationship of weaning date to litter mass (corrected for mother's mass) was significant in only one year. Maternal allocation of resources in litters changed over the season so that mothers produced many, small offspring early in the season, and fewer, large offspring late in the season.

Key words

Spermophilus armatus Timing of reproduction Maternal allocation Juvenile mass Litter size