Implication of life history strategies for prenatal investment in cetaceans

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Abstract

Prenatal investment directly determines the size at birth and fetus growth rate, which affects neonatal survival and growth and potentially affects maternal fitness. This study explored the associated prenatal life history traits of cetaceans. Using multivariate analysis and ANCOVA, baleen whales and toothed cetaceans had distinct energy patterns, with two exceptions including beaked whales and eusocial cetaceans. Baleen whales are characterized by fast prenatal growth, which suggests high prenatal energetics, and utilize the capital breeder tactic. Toothed cetaceans, except for beaked whales, utilize income breeder energetics, which yields relatively slow prenatal growth. However, eusocial cetaceans have especially slow prenatal growth, suggesting very low prenatal energetic effort with social compensation. Although beaked whales are behaviorally income breeders, both discriminant analysis and ANCOVA showed that they are energetically similar to baleen whales, utilizing capital energetics. ANCOVA further revealed that beaked whales have comparatively large calf size, suggesting high prenatal investment. Because all cetaceans wean their calves at comparable size, high prenatal investment may further suggest reduced cost of lactation, which may be behaviorally and energetically adaptive to their specific deep-dive-feeding niche.

Ancillary