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When to have kids: A complex question for hazel dormice
Date:4/27/2012

Claudia Bieber from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology (FIWI) of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and fellow scientists analysed a capture-recapture data set on common dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) to investigate the life-history strategy of this species. These small rodents are about the size and weight of a wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), but, unlike their rodent cousins, they hibernate usually from late September/October to April/May. This is reflected in rather different life history strategies: While wood mice may reproduce any time between February and October and have multiple litters in one season, common dormice give birth to young either as early as possible after waking up from hibernation, or as late as possible, just in time to get the young fit for hibernation. The research findings are published in the current issue of the international journal Oecologia.

According to life-history theory, a species reproductive strategy (e.g. time of sexual maturity, first reproduction, litter size, and other factors) is evolutionarily adapted to the environmental constraints encountered by that species in its natural habitat, such as availability of food resources and predictability of the environment. The aim generally is to produce the largest possible number of surviving offspring under particular conditions.

The researchers observed in a wild dormouse population in Lithuania two peaks of reproduction within the active season. About one third of the litters were born early in the year (June), but the majority were born late in the active season (August/September). In mid-summer, however, only a small fraction of females gave birth to litters, although environmental conditions did not impair investment into reproduction in this time frame. While wood mice, for example, have what is generally known as a "fast" life history, common dormice apparently have some flexibility to adjust their li
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Contact: Dr. Claudia Bieber
claudia.bieber@vetmeduni.ac.at
43-148-909-15230
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
Source:Eurekalert

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