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Does gliding when pregnant select for larger females?

Authors

  • H. B. Fokidis,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Arkansas State University, State University, AR, USA
    2. Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Aiken, SC, USA
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  • T. S. Risch

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Arkansas State University, State University, AR, USA
    2. Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Aiken, SC, USA
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  • Editor: Virginia Hayssen

Correspondence
H. Bobby Fokidis. Current address: School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, PO Box 874601, Tempe, AR 85287-4601, USA.
Email: Bobby.Fokidis@asu.edu

Abstract

For terrestrial vertebrates, gliding imposes unique constraints on the interaction of body mass and structural size, particularly with reference to minimizing wing loading. Females of gliding animals experience increases in wing loading during pregnancy or gravidity, and selection may favour increased structural size to compensate for the added mass. We tested whether pregnant southern flying squirrels Glaucomys volans had similar wing loading as males, and whether females with lower wing loading bore heavier litters, than those with greater wing loading. Males had greater wing loading than females, regardless of the latter's reproductive state (males: 38.4±3.62 N m−2, pregnant females: 30.7±4.21 N m−2 and non-pregnant females: 26.8±5.13 N m−2). The slope of the linear relationship between planar surface area and body mass was similar between pregnant females and males, however (F=0.383, P=0.322). Thus female flying squirrels may optimize their litter mass to minimize wing loading during pregnancy. Contrary to our prediction, females with greater wing loading had heavier litters than those with lower wing loading, which suggests reproductive output may be influenced by other ecological factors.

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