Short- and long-term effects of litter size manipulation in a small wild-derived rodent

Mikko Lehto Huerlimann*, Antoine Stier, Olivier Scholly, Francois Criscuolo, Pierre Bize

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Iteroparous organisms maximize their overall fitness by optimizing their reproductive effort over multiple reproductive events. Hence, changes in reproductive effort are expected to have both short-and long-term consequences on parents and their offspring. In laboratory rodents, manipulation of reproductive efforts during lactation has however revealed few short-term reproductive adjustments, suggesting that female laboratory rodents express maximal rather than optimal levels of reproductive investment as observed in semelparous organisms. Using a litter size manipulation (LSM) experiment in a small wild-derived rodent (the common vole; Microtus arvalis), we show that females altered their reproductive efforts in response to LSM, with females having higher metabolic rates and showing alternative body mass dynamics when rearing an enlarged rather than reduced litter. Those differences in female reproductive effort were nonetheless insufficient to fully match their pups' energy demand, pups being lighter at weaning in enlarged litters. Interestingly, female reproductive effort changes had long-term consequences, with females that had previously reared an enlarged litter being lighter at the birth of their subsequent litter and producing lower quality pups. We discuss the significance of using wild-derived animals in studies of reproductive effort optimization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to VA Viblanc for comments on this manuscript.

We are grateful to the Swiss NSF for financial support (grant no. 31003A_124988 to P.B.).


  • brood size manipulation
  • cost of reproduction
  • life-history theories


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