Browsing by Subject "Mungos mungo"

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  • Palonen, Aura (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Early life conditions have long-term effects on the fitness and survival of individuals. Foetal development is an especially crucial period and even small changes may have large impacts on the development of individuals. Mammal foetuses may be exposed to additional testosterone either from their male littermates or their mother. This additional prenatal androgen exposure leads to masculinization of female features and behavior. In males the effects of additional prenatal androgen exposure are less drastic due to their own testosterone production. The anogenital distance, defined as the distance between the anus and genitalia, has been used to determine the sex of young mammals since males have longer anogenital distances than females. An elongated anogenital distance is an indicator of additional prenatal androgen exposure in females, and in some species also in males. It correlates with for example increased aggressiveness in both females and males. In females a longer anogenital distance has also been connected to delayed puberty and decreased fertility. I studied the effects of additional prenatal androgen exposure on weight and important life-history traits in banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) with data from a long-term study. Banded mongooses are small co-operatively breeding mammals living in family groups of 10-30 individuals across sub-Saharan Africa. Breeding is extremely synchronized within groups and in most cases all pregnant females give birth on the same day. The resulting communal litter is cared for by most adults in the group regardless of relatedness. Adults escort the pups until three months of age, providing the pup with food, grooming and protection. This early life care has long-term fitness benefits for the pups. Pregnant females may change the phenotype of their offspring via maternal effects. When the competition faced by breeding females is more intense, they compensate by investing more resources to their foetuses, making them bigger. Using the anogenital distance as a proxy for additional prenatal androgen exposure, I measured its effects on weight at early life and maturity, the amount of care received as pups and whether the individual reproduced in its lifetime or not. I hypothesized that a longer anogenital distance may be an indicator of increased competitiveness in the banded mongoose. It could lead to a cumulative advantage since more aggressive individuals may be able to access more food and care, which leads to higher maturity weight and lifetime reproductive success. I also measured the effects of resource abundance and intensity of competition during gestation on the anogenital distance of the pups. I hypothesized that mothers may prepare their offspring for future competitive environment by exposing them to androgens during gestation. In males a longer anogenital distance predicted higher weight both at early life and maturity. Higher weight at the beginning of the escorting increased the amount of care received, which in turn increased weight at maturity. A longer anogenital distance therefore has both direct and indirect fitness benefits in male banded mongooses. In females, a longer anogenital distance predicted lighter weight at maturity, suggesting that it may have negative effects on female growth and development. This study offers evidence that additional prenatal androgen exposure has long-term fitness consequences on banded mongooses and that these consequences are sex specific. Future research should focus on confirming the connection between additional prenatal androgen exposure and longer anogenital distance in this species, as well as assessing the effects of prenatal androgen exposure on survival, puberty and growth of especially female individuals.