The Effect of Weaning Weight on Offspring Fitness in Wild House Mice (Mus musculus domesticus): A Preliminary Study


  • Sven Krackow A.B.R.G.

    Corresponding author
    1. Fakultät für Biologie, Universität Konstanz, Konstanz
      Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, England.
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      Krackow, S. 1992: The effect of weaning weight on offspring fitness in wild house mice (Mus musculus domesticus): A preliminary study. Ethology 95, 76–82.

Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, England.


Sex allocation theory is frequently applied to mammalian reproductive traits although the basic assumptions are rarely assessed. In particular, it has been proposed that the finding of negative correlations between sex ratio (percentage males) and litter size in a variety of mammals could ultimately be seen as an adaptation according to the Trivers-Willard hypothesis. Thereby it is supposed 1) that individual young of small litters are weaned at heavier weight than young of larger litters, 2) that this litter-size effect on individual weights persists into adulthood, and 3) that such small weight advantages increase male fitness more strongly than female fitness. In this study, during each of 4 trials, I introduced 4 male and 4 female mice from 8 different litters of wild-caught breeding pairs to a semi-natural enclosure and followed up the social and reproductive events for about 10 weeks. It appeared that small weight differences attributable to litter size variation had a significant positive effect on male fitness, but not on female fitness. As the sample size was small and the social development did vary considerably between trials, this result deserves further clarification.