Age-related reproductive success in solitarily and communally nesting female dormice (Glis glis)



The factors underlying the occurrence of communal nesting in a natural population of fat dormouse (Glis glis) breeding in nest-boxes have been analysed on the assumption that such behaviour is adaptive. Since co-nesting females were previously shown to be close kin (prevalently mother-daughter pairs), they were expected to obtain kin-selected benefits not enjoyed by solitary breeders. The only advantage so far detected accrues to the younger partner, which gives birth, on average, several days earlier than it would as a solitary breeder and thus allows its progeny to attain a heavier weight by the time of hibernation. On the other hand, pup predation in the nest, presumably caused by the older female towards the younger's litter, was occasionally recorded. On the whole, it is perhaps more plausible that communal nesting results from delayed dispersal of yearling females when a high population density limits breeding space, as proposed for other small rodents.