, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 77–86

Reproductive effort during gestation and lactation by Richardson's ground squirrels

  • Gail R. Michener
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00377200

Cite this article as:
Michener, G.R. Oecologia (1989) 78: 77. doi:10.1007/BF00377200


Reproductive effort by yearling and older female Richardson's ground squirrels was studied over a 4-year period in southern Alberta by obtaining serial weight records from marked individuals to compare the mother's mass at critical points in the annual cycle (emergence from hibernation, estrus, parturition, and litter emergence) with her litter's mass at birth and weaning. Yearlings weighed only 80% of older adults at emergence from hibernation, but they mated at the same time as older females, attained adult mass coincident with pregnancy, and weaned litters that were not significantly smaller in size or mass than those of older females. Age and maternal mass were weak predictors of litter size and litter mass. Of the net increase in mass of the combined mother-litter unit during gestation, over half (60% of 139 g for yearlings; 52% of 127 g for older females) was attributable to an increase in the mother's own mass, whereas during lactation almost all of the net increase (93% of 545 g for yearlings; 96% of 567 g for older females) was attributable to an increase in the litter's mass. On a daily basis, deposition of mass in the litter was 6 times greater during lactation than gestation. On average, neonates weighed 2.3% (6.5 g) of maternal mass at birth and 23.1% (81 g) at emergence from the natal burrow; offspring masses at birth and at emergence were significantly negatively correlated with litter size. On average, litters weighed 16.3% (48 g) of maternal mass at birth and 157.5% (578 g) at emergence from the natal burrow. Compared with other hibernating sciurids, Richardson's ground squirrels have a similar offspring mass relative to maternal mass both at birth and at emergence from the natal burrow. However, because of the large litter size (typically 6–8), absolute reproductive effort, measured either as litter mass at birth or at natal emergence, is large for the body size of the species.

Key words

Hibernating sciuridsLitter sizeLitter massNeonate mass

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gail R. Michener
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada