, Volume 154, Issue 2, pp 259-271
Date: 23 Aug 2007

Annual variation in maternal age and calving date generate cohort effects in moose (Alces alces) body mass

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A general feature of the demography of large ungulates is that many demographic traits are dependent on female body mass at early ages. Thus, identifying the factors affecting body mass variation can give important mechanistic understanding of demographic processes. Here we relate individual variation in autumn and winter body mass of moose calves living at low density on an island in northern Norway to characteristics of their mother, and examine how these relationships are affected by annual variation in population density and climate. Body mass increased with increasing age of their mother, was lower for calves born late in the spring, decreased with litter size and was larger for males than for female calves. No residual effects of variation in density and climate were present after controlling for annual variation in mother age and calving date. The annual variation in adult female age structure and calving date explained a large part (71–75%) of the temporal variation in calf body mass. These results support the hypotheses that (a) body mass of moose calves are affected by qualities associated with mother age (e.g. body condition, calving date); and (b) populations living at low densities are partly buffered against temporal fluctuations in the environment.

Communicated by Hannu Ylonen.