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Reproductive allocation in pulsed-resource environments: a comparative study in two populations of wild boar

Abstract

Pulsed resources influence the demography and evolution of consumer populations and, by cascading effect, the dynamics of the entire community. Mast seeding provides a case study for exploring the evolution of life history traits of consumers in fluctuating environments. Wild boar (Sus scrofa) population dynamics is related to seed availability (acorns/beechnuts). From a long-term monitoring of two populations subjected to markedly different environmental contexts (i.e., both low vs. high frequency of pulsed resources and low vs. high hunting pressure in Italy and in France, respectively), we assessed how pulsed resources shape the reproductive output of females. Using path analyses, we showed that in both populations, abundant seed availability increases body mass and both the absolute and the relative (to body mass) allocation to reproduction through higher fertility. In the Italian population, females equally relied on past and current resources for reproduction and ranked at an intermediate position along the capital-income continuum of breeding tactics. In contrast, in the French population, females relied on current more than past resources and ranked closer to the income end of the continuum. In the French population, one-year old females born in acorn-mast years were heavier and had larger litter size than females born in beechnut-mast years. In addition to the quantity, the type of resources (acorns/beechnuts) has to be accounted for to assess reliably how females allocate resources to reproduction. Our findings highlight a high plasticity in breeding tactics in wild boar females and provide new insight on allocation strategies in fluctuating environments.

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Acknowledgements

We warmly thank three anonymous referees and Prof. Joerg Ganzhorn for their helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper. We thank the Segretariato per la Presidenza della Repubblica for allowing the study at Castelporziano, for its financial support and the data availability. We also thank P. Aragno, P. Bergamasco and C. D'Alessio for assistance in fieldwork. At Châteauvillain-Arc-en-Barrois, data collection was performed and granted by the French National Agency for Wildlife (ONCFS). We are grateful to all those who helped collecting harvested wild boar particularly P. Van den Bulck, to the Office National des Forêts and to F. Jehlé who allowed us to work on the study area. This work will contribute to the “Potenchêne” program (Gip, ECOFOR, BGF) and was partly supported by the European Research Council (grant STOCHPOP to BES) and by the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence funding scheme, Project Number 223257.

Author contribution statement

SB, BF, FR contributed to data collection. MG, SF, EB, JMG conceived the study. MG conducted the analyses, wrote the first draft and all authors contributed to revisions of the initial manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marlène Gamelon.

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All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Communicated by Jörg U. Ganzhorn.

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Gamelon, M., Focardi, S., Baubet, E. et al. Reproductive allocation in pulsed-resource environments: a comparative study in two populations of wild boar. Oecologia 183, 1065–1076 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-017-3821-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-017-3821-8

Keywords

  • Body mass
  • Breeding tactics
  • Fluctuating environments
  • Masting
  • Path analysis