Age at reproductive debut: Developmental predictors and consequences for lactation, infant mass, and subsequent reproduction in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Florent Pittet, Crystal Johnson, Katherine Hinde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: The age at which females initiate their reproductive career is a critical life-history parameter with potential consequences on their residual reproductive value and lifetime fitness. The age at reproductive debut may be intimately tied to the somatic capacity of the mother to rear her young, but relatively little is known about the influence of age of first birth on milk synthesis within a broader framework of reproductive scheduling, infant outcomes, and other life-history tradeoffs. Material and Methods: Our study investigated the predictors of age at first reproduction among 108 captive rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) females, and associations with their milk synthesis at peak lactation, infant mass, and ability to subsequently conceive and reproduce. Results: The majority of females reproduced in their fourth year (typical breeders); far fewer initiated their reproductive career one year earlier or one year later (respectively early and late breeders). Early breeders (3-year-old) benefited from highly favorable early life development (better juvenile growth, high dominance rank) to accelerate reproduction, but were impaired in milk synthesis due to lower somatic resources and their own continued growth. Comparatively, late breeders suffered from poor developmental conditions, only partially compensated by their delayed reproduction, and evinced compromised milk synthesis. Typical breeders not only produced higher available milk energy but also had best reproductive performance during the breeding and birth seasons following primiparity. Discussion: Here, we refine and extend our understanding of how life-history tradeoffs manifest in the magnitude, sources, and consequences of variation in age of reproductive debut. These findings provide insight into primate reproductive flexibility in the context of constraints and opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-476
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Volume164
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Keywords

  • infant development
  • inter-birth interval
  • life-history tradeoffs
  • maternal condition
  • milk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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