Reproductive output, maternal age, and survivorship in captive common marmoset females (Callithrix jacchus)

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Abstract

Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) demonstrate significant variation in reproductive output on both a yearly and lifetime basis in comparison to other anthropoid primates. We explore the factors that may be most important in determining reproductive variation in captive common marmosets. Studies have found that maternal age, maternal condition, and dam survivorship are related to reproductive output; however, these reports are not in agreement and are far from conclusive. With the use of a large, multicolony, demographic database pooling data across five marmoset colonies, we examined litter information for 1,649 litters, and reproductive summaries for 400 dams to assess 1) how reproductive output variation (total production, total weaned production) is determined by litter size, interbirth interval (IBI), age at first birth, and dam survival age; 2) the relationship between maternal age and reproductive output variables; and 3) relationship between the reproductive output variables and survival. We used stepwise regression procedures to describe the amount of variation in lifetime reproductive output among dams, and found that mean litter size accounted for 18% of the variance in total production, survival age accounted for 10.6%, age at first birth accounted for 8.8%, and mean IBI accounted for 5%. For total (nonzero) weaned production, survival age accounted for 7.6% of variance, age at first birth accounted for 7.2%, mean IBI accounted for 2%, and mean litter size accounted for 1.6%. We identified significant effects (P<0.05) of maternal age on litter size and IBI length, but no effect of dam age on weaned litter size. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses revealed significant effects (P<0.01) of number of litters, age at first birth, and site on dam survivorship. Dams that produced more litters showed higher survivorship. Age at first birth showed a positive relationship with dam survivorship, i.e., dams that delayed first reproduction had higher survival. Our findings about reproductive variation in marmosets may have practical applications for the management of marmoset breeding colonies. Am. J. Primatol. 64:107–121, 2004 © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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