Some squirrels luckier than others

April 5th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by admin  

Toronto, April 5 (IANS) New research has uncovered how some squirrels, like their human counterparts, can be born with silver spoons in their mouths. Using 15 years of data from a North American red squirrel population, researchers discovered that female babies born into fortunate circumstances with more food, warmer spring weather and a lower population, experienced long-lasting positive effects on reproductive success, producing more offspring over the remainder of their lives.

However, squirrels born into rougher circumstances with less food and bitter weather didn’t live as long and tended to wean fewer young when they were alive.

A study of female red squirrels in Kluane, Yukon, revealed that advantageous ’silver spoon’ factors such as food availability and spring temperature experienced between birth and weaning could reflect later on each squirrel’s lifetime fitness, longevity and reproductive success.

“Our study shows that some individuals get a real head start on their colleagues simply by being born in a good year. On the other hand, those having the bad luck of being born in a bad year may never get a taste of that silver spoon,” said Stan Boutin of University of Alberta Canada and co-author of the study.

The research was conducted jointly with Michigan State University, University of Quebec at Rimouski, and the Universit

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