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Permanent URL to this publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-48151

Müller, D W H; Bingaman Lackey, L; Streich, W J; Fickel, J; Hatt, J M; Clauss, M (2011). Mating system, feeding type and ex situ conservation effort determine life expectancy in captive ruminants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 278:2076-2080.

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Zoo animal husbandry aims at constantly improving husbandry, reproductive success and ultimately animal welfare. Nevertheless, analyses to determine factors influencing husbandry of different species are rare. The relative life expectancy (rLE; life expectancy (LE) as proportion of longevity) describes husbandry success of captive populations. Correlating rLE with biological characteristics of different species, reasons for variation in rLE can be detected. We analysed data of 166 901 animals representing 78 ruminant species kept in 850 facilities. The rLE of females correlated with the percentage of grass in a species’ natural diet, suggesting that needs of species adapted to grass can be more easily accommodated than the needs of those adapted to browse. Males of monogamous species demonstrate higher rLE than polygamous males, which matches observed differences of sexual bias in LE in free-living populations and thus supports the ecological theory that the mating system influences LE. The third interesting finding was that rLE was higher in species managed by international studbooks when compared with species not managed in this way. Our method facilitates the identification of biological characteristics of species that are relevant for their husbandry success, and they also support ecological theory. Translating these findings into feeding recommendations, our approach can help to improve animal husbandry.


13 citations in Web of Science®
15 citations in Scopus®
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182 downloads since deposited on 26 May 2011
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Deposited On:26 May 2011 10:25
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:55
Publisher:Royal Society of London
Publisher DOI:10.1098/rspb.2010.2275
PubMed ID:21147792

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