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Risk-sensitive reproductive allocation: fitness consequences of body mass losses in two contrasting environments

Authors

  • Bård-Jørgen Bårdsen,

    Corresponding author
    1. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Arctic Ecology Department, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
    • Correspondence

      Bård-Jørgen Bårdsen, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Arctic Ecology Department, Fram Centre, NO-9296 Tromsø, Norway. Tel: +47 7775 0435; Fax: +47 7775 0401; E-mail: bjb@nina.no

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  • Marius Warg Næss,

    1. CICERO – Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
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  • Torkild Tveraa,

    1. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Arctic Ecology Department, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
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  • Knut Langeland,

    1. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Arctic Ecology Department, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
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  • Per Fauchald

    1. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Arctic Ecology Department, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
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Abstract

For long-lived organisms, the fitness value of survival is greater than that of current reproduction. Asymmetric fitness rewards suggest that organisms inhabiting unpredictable environments should adopt a risk-sensitive life history, predicting that it is adaptive to allocate resources to increase their own body reserves at the expense of reproduction. We tested this using data from reindeer populations inhabiting contrasting environments and using winter body mass development as a proxy for the combined effect of winter severity and density dependence. Individuals in good and harsh environments responded similarly: Females who lost large amounts of winter body mass gained more body mass the coming summer compared with females losing less mass during winter. Additionally, females experienced a cost of reproduction: On average, barren females gained more body mass than lactating females. Winter body mass development positively affected both the females' reproductive success and offspring body mass. Finally, we discuss the relevance of our findings with respect to scenarios for future climate change.

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