Effects of litter size on pup defence and weaning success of neighbouring bank vole females

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Reproductive success of territorial female mammals depends partly on their capability to defend their young from conspecific intruders. However, how this is related to the characteristics of females and their litter sizes is largely unknown. The defence activity of 25 female bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) in relation to the number of offspring was studied in a behavioural arena by manipulating litter sizes (-2 pups or +2 pups). Infanticidal male bank voles were used as intruders-predators. Moreover, the weaning success (weaned at least one offspring or none) of 15 pairs of neighbouring females was investigated in a large indoor runway system. In each pair of females, the litter size of one female was reduced (-2 pups) and the litter size of the other enlarged (+2 pups). Defence activity of females increased with the number of offspring and the mother's size. However, weaning success of neighbours was related only to their body mass, and litter-size manipulation did not affect weaning success. Present results indicate that, although bank vole females increase their defence intensity with an increase in the number of pups, the weaning success of neighbouring females may be primarily determined by their size and dominance rank.


  • P Jonsson
  • Jep Agrell
  • E Koskela
  • T Mappes
Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Ekologi
Sidor (från-till)1-5
TidskriftCanadian Journal of Zoology
StatusPublished - 2002
Peer review utfördJa


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