Maternal investment and factors affecting offspring size in polar bears (Ursus maritimus)


All correspondence to present address: Norwegian Polar Institute, N-9005, Tromsø, Norway


We examined data on live-captured polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from western Hudson Bay relative to differential maternal investment and facultative sex ratio theory. In spring, shortly after den emergence, we found no differences in mass or body length of cubs in litters of one or two. In triplet litters captured in spring, male cubs were larger than females in both mass and body length, possibly due to sibling competition for limited maternal resources. In cubs captured during autumn, sex-based differences in mass and body length were found only in litters of one with males larger than females. Yearling males captured in autumn were heavier and longer than females in litters of one and two. In twin litters of one male and one female cub in spring and autumn, we found no differences in mass or body length. Except singleton female cubs in spring and female and male triplets in spring, cub and yearling mass were correlated with maternal mass. Mothers with singletons in spring were more likely to have male cubs but, in general, there was little evidence to suggest that mass or age of mothers influenced offspring sex. Litter size, maternal mass, and maternal age all influenced cub and yearling size, but offspring sex was less important. Results suggest that female polar bears do not normally invest differentially between offspring of different sexes except in triplet litters in spring.