Litter sizes of Daurian ground squirrels peak at intermediate body sizes
Litter size and body size of animals may coevolve under the concomitant pressures of sexual selection, fecundity selection, and viability selection. Studies have demonstrated the positive relationship between body size and litter size, consistent with Darwin’s fecundity advantage of large body size. However, the counterbalancing selection hypothesis predicts fecundity selection would result in a positive correlation between litter size and body size initially, whereas the opposite pressure by viability selection would decrease litter size with further increasing body size beyond a threshold size. Moreover, the reproduction senescence hypothesis predicts that litter size of old, large females would decline with deteriorating body conditions. In this study, we tested the predictions of the counterbalancing selection hypothesis and the reproduction senescence hypothesis concerning the quadratic relationship between body size and litter size in Daurian ground squirrels (Spermophilus dauricus). Litter size increased initially with increasing carcass weight of females, and then decreased with further increases in carcass weight, supporting the prediction of the counterbalancing hypothesis. However, litter size was not related to body condition index of females, and body conditions improved with increasing body weight, suggesting that the reproduction senescence hypothesis alone cannot explain the observed quadratic relationship between litter size and carcass weight of female S. dauricus.
KeywordsBody condition Fecundity selection Reproduction senescence Trade-off Viability selection
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