Rodent mothers increase vigilance behaviour when facing infanticide risk

Merel C. Breedveld, Remco Folkertsma, Jana A. Eccard
Infanticide, the killing of unrelated young, is widespread and frequently driven by sexual conflict. especially in mammals with exclusive maternal care, infanticide by males is common and females suffer fitness costs. Recognizing infanticide risk and adjusting offspring protection accordingly should therefore be adaptive in female mammals. Using a small mammal (Myodes glareolus) in outdoor enclosures, we investigated whether lactating mothers adjust offspring protection, and potential mate
more » ... potential mate search behaviour, in response to different infanticide risk levels. We presented the scent of the litter's sire or of a stranger male near the female's nest, and observed female nest presence and movement by radiotracking. While both scents simulated a mating opportunity, they represented lower (sire) and higher (stranger) infanticide risk. compared to the sire treatment, females in the stranger treatment left their nest more often, showed increased activity and stayed closer to the nest, suggesting offspring protection from outside the nest through elevated alertness and vigilance. females with larger litters spent more time investigating scents and used more space in the sire but not in the stranger treatment. Thus, current investment size affected odour inspection and resource acquisition under higher risk. Adjusting nest protection and resource acquisition to infanticide risk could allow mothers to elicit appropriate (fitness-saving) counterstrategies, and thus, may be widespread.
doi:10.25932/publishup-43807 fatcat:xudvwmoyszcrffyqphhzrcbwkq