World Lagomorph Society
World Lagomorph Society
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Habitat characteristics and life history explain reproductive seasonality in lagomorphs
S. A. Heldstab
Lagomorphs show extensive seasonal variation in their reproduction. However, the factors causing this large variation have so far mostly been investigated intraspecifically and therefore provide only some exemplary comparisons of lagomorph reproductive seasonality. The present study applies both a categorical description (birth season categories 1–5) and a quantitative measure (birth season length in months) to summarize the degree of birth seasonality in the wild of 69 lagomorph species. Using a comparative approach, I tested the influence of 13 factors, comprising six habitat, five life history and two allometric variables on birth season length in lagomorphs. Leporids mainly show non-seasonal birthing patterns with high intraspecific variation. Their opportunistic breeding strategy with high reproductive output and their large distribution areas across wide latitude and elevation ranges might be the reasons for this finding. Ochotonids reproduce strictly seasonally, likely because they live at northern latitudes, are high-altitude specialists, and occur in limited distribution areas. The most important factors associated with variation in lagomorph birth seasonality are mid-latitude, mean annual temperature and precipitation of a species’ geographical range and life history adaptations including fewer but larger litters in seasonal habitats. Birth seasons become shorter with increasing latitude, colder temperatures, and less precipitation, corresponding to the decreasing length of optimal environmental conditions. Leporid species with shorter breeding seasons force maternal resources into few large litters to maximise reproductive output while circumstances are favourable. Since allometric variables were only weakly associated with reproductive seasonality, life history adaptations and habitat characteristics determine birth seasonality in Lagomorpha.
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Document Information
Publish date: April 2021
Edition: Mammalian Biology