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Does lactation lead to resource allocation trade-offs in the spotted hyaena?

Abstract

Life history theory predicts that when food intake and body reserves are insufficient to maintain all life processes, resource allocation trade-offs should occur. Lactation is costly and requires increased food intake. In spotted hyaenas, energy expenditure on lactation is high, particularly for mothers rearing twin litters, and foraging effort and food intake are influenced by social status. We investigated whether lactation in this species results in a reduction in resource allocation to immune processes sufficient to increase parasite infection. We expected higher parasite infection in lactating than non-lactating females, in mothers nursing twin than singleton litters, in females of lower than higher social status and in less than more experienced foragers. We quantified Ancylostoma egg load (AEL) and the presence of oocysts of Cystoisospora spp. as a proxy measure of immune function in 58 females. Lactating females were significantly more often infected with Ancylostoma, and their AEL was higher than in non-lactating females. Females nursing twins had significantly higher AELs than those nursing singletons. As social status increased, AELs significantly declined. This relationship was modulated by lactation status and litter size, being strongest in non-lactating females, moderate in females with twin litters and weakest in females with singleton litters. The decrease in AEL with increasing social status was greater for experienced than inexperienced females. Concurrent infection with Cystoisospora significantly increased with increasing AEL. Our results provide evidence for a resource allocation trade-off in lactating spotted hyaenas.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Tanzania Commission of Science and Technology, Tanzania National Parks and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute for their support of our long-term research project. We also thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Malvina Andris, Nelly Boyer and Kerstin Wilhelm for their assistance. This work was financed by a grant awarded from the Leibniz Competitive Fund (“Pakt für Forschung und Innovation”), made possible by the Federal German government through its Ministry for Education and Research and the community of German states (“Länder”), and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Ethical standards

All protocols were non-invasive and adhered to the laws and guidelines of Tanzania. Permission to conduct research in Tanzania was granted to JH, HH and MLE by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology. Permission to undertake research within the Serengeti National Park was granted by the Tanzanian National Parks Authority, and the research was approved by the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute. The research was also approved by the Ethical Committee of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

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Correspondence to Marion L. East.

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Communicated by M. Festa-Bianchet

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East, M.L., Otto, E., Helms, J. et al. Does lactation lead to resource allocation trade-offs in the spotted hyaena?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 69, 805–814 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-015-1897-x

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Keywords

  • Resource trade-off
  • Lactation
  • Immunity
  • Concurrent infection
  • Litter size