Mother–offspring conflict and body temperature regulation during gestation and lactation in a wild primate

McFarland, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-8245-9269, Henzi, S.P., Fuller, A., Hetem, R.S., Young, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-8919-2093 and Barrett, L., 2024. Mother–offspring conflict and body temperature regulation during gestation and lactation in a wild primate. Functional Ecology. ISSN 0269-8463

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1. The physiological performance of a mother during reproduction represents a trade-off between continued investment in her current offspring, and the mother's own survival and ability to invest in future offspring. Here, we used core body temperature (Tb) patterns to examine the degree to which maternal body temperatures support the infant during periods of gestation and lactation.

2. We implanted 30 wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) with miniature data loggers to obtain continuous measurements of core Tb during periods of typical (i.e. non-drought periods) and limited (i.e. drought period) resource availability.

3. We tracked maternal Tb profiles across the gestation and lactation periods, associated with 23 births, and compared those with Tb profiles of non-reproductive females. This allowed us to examine the flexibility in maternal body temperatures and test whether limited resource availability shifts priority away from offspring investment and towards self-maintenance.

4. Vervet monkeys demonstrated the predicted pattern of gestational hypothermia and improved homeothermy in the gestation period during typical conditions, consistent with the maintenance of a thermal gradient to facilitate heat loss from the foetus. During periods of limited resource availability (i.e. drought), mothers were less homeothermic and more hyperthermic during the gestation period.

5. Vervet monkeys showed no evidence of lactational hyperthermia during typical conditions. During the drought, lactating mothers demonstrated hyperthermia and increased variability in body temperature, consistent with the increased metabolic demands and water requirements for milk production required to support growing infants.

6. Although a mother's degree of homeothermy during gestation and lactation was unrelated to her infant's chance of survival to weaning, mothers did show flexibility in the degree to which they prioritized the maintenance of a thermal environment that supports their infant's development. Together, our findings demonstrate that flexibility in a mother's investment in thermoregulation during gestation and lactation may reflect a bet-hedging trade-off between self-maintenance and offspring investment.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Functional Ecology
Creators: McFarland, R., Henzi, S.P., Fuller, A., Hetem, R.S., Young, C. and Barrett, L.
Publisher: Wiley
Date: 11 March 2024
ISSN: 0269-8463
Rights: © 2024 The Authors. Functional Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 19 Mar 2024 10:53
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2024 10:53

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