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Age-specific resource investment strategies: evidence from female Richardson's ground squirrels (Spermophilus richardsonii)


David R. Broussard, Department of Biology, College of William and Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795, USA. Tel: (757) 221-2238; Fax: (757) 221-6483


To avoid a possible cost to their future survival and/or reproduction, individuals must balance their somatic and reproductive investments. The van Noordwijk and De Jong model of resource investment predicts that investments into reproduction and soma can vary among individuals of a population based on the variation in the total amount of energy that individuals acquire. With principal components analysis (PCA), we created two axes of life history for female Richardson's ground squirrels Spermophilus richardsonii: an index of total energy investment (PC1) and an index of investment tactic (PC2). Using these indices, we examined patterns of resource allocation to reproductive and somatic investments. Because yearling female Richardson's ground squirrels complete growth to adult size during pregnancy and early lactation, their somatic needs exceed those of older, fully grown females. Therefore, we predicted that yearlings would show more evidence of a tradeoff between reproductive and somatic investments compared with older females. Both yearling and older females invested four to five times more mass into their litters than into their own body mass. With increasing total investment, yearling females increased investment in both reproduction and themselves, whereas older females invested relatively more in reproduction than themselves. Regardless of age, females that emerged heavier from hibernation invested fewer resources into themselves and more into their litters. Variation in total energy investment and investment tactic indices was similar for yearling and older females. Contrary to our prediction, however, yearling females showed positive associations between reproductive and somatic investments, whereas older females exhibited showed no significant association between reproductive and somatic investments.