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Nitrogen- and carbon-isotope fractionation between mothers and offspring in red-backed voles (Clethrionomys gapperi)

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Small mammals are income breeders, but the degree to which females draw from maternal reserves and partition nutrients to the mammary glands in the wild is not known. This study examined stable-nitrogen and stable-carbon isotopes in red-backed vole, Clethrionomys gapperi (Vigors, 1830), hair to determine mother–offspring trophic relationships and to consider the extent to which voles rely on maternal reserves during lactation. Both dependent and independent young showed isotopic enrichment in 15N and depletion of 13C in their hair relative to mothers. We suggest that growing offspring, both dependent and independent, may catabolize body reserves to support both growth and moult. We propose that the nitrogen- and carbon-isotope compositions of hair may be more useful indicators of metabolic rate than mother–offspring trophic relationships in small mammals.

Les petits mammifères utilisent leurs apports énergétiques quotidiens (revenu) pour se reproduire; on connaît cependant mal dans quelle mesure les femelles en nature puisent dans leurs réserves maternelles et allouent des nutriments aux glandes mammaires. Notre étude examine les isotopes stables d'azote et de carbone dans le poil des campagnols à dos roux de Gapper, Clethrionomys gapperi (Vigors, 1830), afin de déterminer les relations trophiques mère–petits et évaluer dans quelle mesure les campagnols utilisent leurs réserves maternelles durant l'allaitement. Tant chez les petits dépendants qu'indépendants, il y a un enrichissement isotopique en 15N et un appauvrissement en 13C dans le poil, par comparaison à leur mère. Nous croyons que les rejetons en croissance, tant dépendants qu'indépendants, peuvent cataboliser leurs réserves corporelles pour alimenter la croissance et la mue. Nous croyons que la composition isotopique d'azote et de carbone du poil chez les petits mammifères est un indicateur plus fiable du taux métabolique que de la relation trophique mère–petits.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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