Lifetime growth in wild meerkats: Incorporating life history and environmental factors into a standard growth model

Sinéad English*, Andrew W. Bateman, Tim H. Clutton-Brock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Lifetime records of changes in individual size or mass in wild animals are scarce and, as such, few studies have attempted to model variation in these traits across the lifespan or to assess the factors that affect them. However, quantifying lifetime growth is essential for understanding trade-offs between growth and other life history parameters, such as reproductive performance or survival. Here, we used model selection based on information theory to measure changes in body mass over the lifespan of wild meerkats, and compared the relative fits of several standard growth models (monomolecular, von Bertalanffy, Gompertz, logistic and Richards). We found that meerkats exhibit monomolecular growth, with the best model incorporating separate growth rates before and after nutritional independence, as well as effects of season and total rainfall in the previous nine months. Our study demonstrates how simple growth curves may be improved by considering life history and environmental factors, which may be particularly relevant when quantifying growth patterns in wild populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-153
Number of pages11
JournalOecologia
Volume169
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

Keywords

  • Body mass
  • Model selection
  • Nutritional independence
  • Seasonal variation
  • Suricata suricatta

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