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Reproductive resilience to food shortage in a small heterothermic primate


Canale, Cindy I; Huchard, Elise; Perret, Martine; Henry, Pierre-Yves (2012). Reproductive resilience to food shortage in a small heterothermic primate. PLoS ONE, 7(7):e41477.

Abstract

The massive energetic costs entailed by reproduction in most mammalian females may increase the vulnerability of reproductive success to food shortage. Unexpected events of unfavorable climatic conditions are expected to rise in frequency and intensity as climate changes. The extent to which physiological flexibility allows organisms to maintain reproductive output constant despite energetic bottlenecks has been poorly investigated. In mammals, reproductive resilience is predicted to be maximal during early stages of reproduction, due to the moderate energetic costs of ovulation and gestation relative to lactation. We experimentally tested the consequences of chronic-moderate and short-acute food shortages on the reproductive output of a small seasonally breeding primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) under thermo-neutral conditions. These two food treatments were respectively designed to simulate the energetic constraints imposed by a lean year (40% caloric restriction over eight months) or by a sudden, severe climatic event occurring shortly before reproduction (80% caloric restriction over a month). Grey mouse lemurs evolved under the harsh, unpredictable climate of the dry forest of Madagascar and should thus display great potential for physiological adjustments to energetic bottlenecks. We assessed the resilience of the early stages of reproduction (mating success, fertility, and gestation) to these contrasted food treatments, and on the later stages (lactation and offspring growth) in response to the chronic food shortage only. Food deprived mouse lemurs managed to maintain constant most reproductive parameters, including oestrus timing, estrogenization level at oestrus, mating success, litter size, and litter mass as well as their overall number of surviving offspring at weaning. However, offspring growth was delayed in food restricted mothers. These results suggest that heterothermic, fattening-prone mammals display important reproductive resilience to energetic bottlenecks. More generally, species living in variable and unpredictable habitats may have evolved a flexible reproductive physiology that helps buffer environmental fluctuations.

Abstract

The massive energetic costs entailed by reproduction in most mammalian females may increase the vulnerability of reproductive success to food shortage. Unexpected events of unfavorable climatic conditions are expected to rise in frequency and intensity as climate changes. The extent to which physiological flexibility allows organisms to maintain reproductive output constant despite energetic bottlenecks has been poorly investigated. In mammals, reproductive resilience is predicted to be maximal during early stages of reproduction, due to the moderate energetic costs of ovulation and gestation relative to lactation. We experimentally tested the consequences of chronic-moderate and short-acute food shortages on the reproductive output of a small seasonally breeding primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) under thermo-neutral conditions. These two food treatments were respectively designed to simulate the energetic constraints imposed by a lean year (40% caloric restriction over eight months) or by a sudden, severe climatic event occurring shortly before reproduction (80% caloric restriction over a month). Grey mouse lemurs evolved under the harsh, unpredictable climate of the dry forest of Madagascar and should thus display great potential for physiological adjustments to energetic bottlenecks. We assessed the resilience of the early stages of reproduction (mating success, fertility, and gestation) to these contrasted food treatments, and on the later stages (lactation and offspring growth) in response to the chronic food shortage only. Food deprived mouse lemurs managed to maintain constant most reproductive parameters, including oestrus timing, estrogenization level at oestrus, mating success, litter size, and litter mass as well as their overall number of surviving offspring at weaning. However, offspring growth was delayed in food restricted mothers. These results suggest that heterothermic, fattening-prone mammals display important reproductive resilience to energetic bottlenecks. More generally, species living in variable and unpredictable habitats may have evolved a flexible reproductive physiology that helps buffer environmental fluctuations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:27 Feb 2014 10:38
Last Modified:07 Aug 2017 03:20
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
Funders:UMR 7179, ED392 (Diversité du Vivant) Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) research grant (number HU 1820/1-1)
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0041477
PubMed ID:22848507

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