The period following the withdrawal of parental care has been highlighted as a key developmental period for juveniles. One reason for this is that juveniles cannot forage as competently as adults, potentially placing them at greater risk from environmentally-induced changes in food availability. However, no studies have examined this topic. Using a long-term dataset on red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) we examined (i) dietary changes that occurred in the 1-month period following the attainment of nutritional independence, (ii) diet composition in relation to climatic variation and (iii) the effect of climatic variation on subsequent full-grown mass. Diet at nutritional independence contained increased quantities of easy-to-catch food items (earthworms and insects) when compared to pre-independence. Inter-annual variation in the volume of rainfall at nutritional independence was positively correlated to the proportion of earthworms in cub diet. Pre-independence cub mass and rainfall immediately following nutritional independence explained a significant proportion of variance in full-grown mass, with environmental variation affecting full-grown mass of entire cohorts. Thus, weather-mediated availability of easy-to-catch food items at a key developmental stage has life-long implications for the development of juvenile foxes by affecting full-grown mass, which in turn appears to be an important component of individual reproductive potential.
|Translated title of the contribution||Environmental variation at the onset of independent foraging affects full-grown body mass in the red fox|
|Pages (from-to)||2411 - 2418|
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - Oct 2008|