The relationship between phenotypic variation among offspring and mother body mass in wild boar: evidence of coin-flipping?



  1. In highly variable environments, the optimal reproductive tactics of iteroparous organisms should minimize variance in yearly reproductive success to maximize the long-term average reproductive success. To minimize among-year variation in reproductive success, individuals can either minimize the variance in the number of offspring produced at each reproductive attempt (classical bet-hedging) or maximize the phenotypic diversity of offspring produced within or among reproductive attempts (coin-flipping).
  2. From a long-term detailed study of an intensively exploited population facing a highly unpredictable environment, we identify a continuum of reproductive tactics in wild boar females depending on their body mass.
  3. At one end, light females adjusted litter size to their body mass and produced highly similar-sized offspring within a litter. These females fitted the hypothesis of individual optimization commonly reported in warm-blooded species, which involves both an optimal mass and an optimal number of offspring for a given mother. At the other end of the continuum, heavy females produced litters of variable size including a mixture of heavy and light offspring within litters.
  4. Prolific heavy wild boar females diversify the phenotype of their offspring, providing a first evidence for coin-flipping in a warm-blooded species.