, Volume 158, Issue 3, pp 485-498

Lack of compensatory body growth in a high performance moose Alces alces population

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Considerable work has been done on disentangling important factors determining early development in body size, yet our knowledge of the extent to which animals living under varying conditions can achieve catch-up growth for a bad start in life is limited. Here, we investigated how body mass at the age of 8 months influenced adult body mass in a moose Alces alces population living under excellent environmental conditions on the island of Vega in northern Norway. We also investigated if mother age and birth date effects on calf body mass persisted until adulthood. We show that neither males nor females were able to show compensatory growth before they reached adulthood, and that part of the variation in adult body mass may have been due to variation in mother age and date of birth. The pattern observed in males can be related to their growth strategy in relation to reproduction, while such results were not expected in females where size-dependent start of reproduction is likely to interact with body growth. We suggest that the good environmental conditions experienced on Vega led to females having small somatic costs of an early start of reproduction or that larger females were able to acquire more resources for growth than their smaller conspecifics. In both cases, females that postpone their first reproduction may not be able to achieve catch-up growth for their lower early body mass compared to females that start reproduction at an early age. Our results concur with previous studies indicating that compensatory growth is weak in moose, increasing the likelihood that variation in life history characters are also transferred between generations.

Communicated by Janne Sundell.