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Journal Article

Fitness consequences of seasonally different life histories? A match–mismatch experiment


Guenther,  Anja
Research Group Behavioural Ecology of Individual Differences (Guenther), Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Guenther, A., Eweleit, L., & Trillmich, F. (2021). Fitness consequences of seasonally different life histories? A match–mismatch experiment. Behavioral Ecology, 32(3), 500-507. doi:10.1093/beheco/araa149.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-9EBE-F
To survive and reproduce successfully, animals have to find the optimal time of breeding. Species living in nontropical environments often adjust their reproduction plastically according to seasonal changes of the environment. Information about the prevailing season can be transmitted in utero, leading to the adaptation of the offspring to the prevailing season. After birth, animals acquire additional personal information about the environment, which allows them to adjust their reproductive investment. Here, we tested in a full-factorial match–mismatch experiment the influence of reproductive adjustments according to maternal and personal information. We bred wild cavies (Cavia aperea), a precocial rodent, either into increasing (spring) or decreasing (autumn) photoperiod and, subsequently, after weaning, transferred female offspring to the matching or mismatching season. We measured growth, specific metabolic rate (sRMR) and reproductive events across six months. Although sRMR was elevated for females primed for good (spring) conditions when transferred to the mismatching autumn condition, we found no maternal effects on reproduction. Females adjusted their reproductive decisions according to the season they personally experienced, thereby implying a potentially high level of plasticity. Females reproducing in spring started reproduction earlier with a lower reproductive effort than females reproducing in autumn but, ultimately, the two groups did not differ in survival, growth, or reproduction. These data suggest important developmental plasticity, highlight the use of personal information acquired after weaning over early information provided until weaning, and point out the potential value of multiple cues, such as food abundance and quality and temperature besides photoperiod.