Mothers' appetites can keep size of wild animal groups in check

January 11, 2016

The eating habits of mothers may be key to keeping wild animal populations steady, a study suggests.

The discovery shows that the food intake of mothers - which impacts on the appetite of their offspring - protects animals from periods of population boom and bust.

It could explain why a decades-old scientific theory that predicts populations should swell until they are too big, at which point their numbers should crash, has never been validated in the wild.

The findings suggest that the relationship between mothers' appetites and those of their offspring may help populations survive lean times. When conditions are poor, mothers will tend to eat less - and have less hungry offspring - making it more likely that the population survives.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh set out to further investigate their recent discovery that how well a mother eats impacts on the appetites of their offspring.

They built a mathematical computer model to better understand how this effect might impact on population sizes. They found that instead of populations consistently rising and falling, as predicted, factoring in the impact of mothers' appetites kept population size relatively stable.

Researchers suggest that the effect of mothers' appetites may help prevent species going extinct, and help counteract the effect of large numbers within a population being preyed upon, such as during harvesting.

The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was carried out with scientists at the University of Stirling and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Dr Tom Little, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: "How much a mother eats presets the appetite of her offspring. This effect seems to help keep populations of wild animals stable, and may help them avoid extinction."
-end-


University of Edinburgh

Related Eating Habits Articles from Brightsurf:

Shifts in water temperatures affect eating habits of larval tuna at critical life stage
Small shifts in ocean temperature can have significant effects on the eating habits of blackfin tuna during the larval stage of development, when finding food and growing quickly are critical to long-term survival.

DNA in fringe-lipped bat poop reveals unexpected eating habits
By examining the poop of the fringe-lipped bat (Trachops cirrhosus), a team at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) encountered surprising results about its eating habits and foraging abilities.

Norman Conquest of 1066 did little to change people's eating habits
Archaeologists from Cardiff University and the University of Sheffield have combined the latest scientific methods to offer new insights into life during the Norman Conquest of England.

Gut bacteria may modify behavior in worms, influencing eating habits
Gut bacteria are tiny but may play an outsized role not only in the host animal's digestive health, but in their overall well-being.

Temperament affects children's eating habits
Temperamental children are at greater risk for developing unhealthy eating habits.

Pre-COVID-19 poll of older adults hints at potential impact of pandemic on eating habits
Most people in their 50s and older were capable home cooks just before COVID-19 struck America, but only 5% had ordered groceries online, according to a new national poll.

Revving habits up and down, new insight into how the brain forms habits
Each day, humans and animals rely on habits to complete routine tasks such as eating.

More stroke awareness, better eating habits may help reduce stroke risk for young adult African-Americans
Young African-Americans are experiencing higher rates of stroke because of health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, yet their perception of their stroke risk is low.

Social media users 'copy' friends' eating habits
Social media users are more likely to eat fruit and veg -- or snack on junk food -- if they think their friends do the same, a new study has found.

Interest in presidential eating habits may affect the public's food choices
A recent study by a Penn State researcher examined how President Donald Trump's reported fondness for fast food may affect the public's perception of fast food and the likelihood, based on their media habits, one might purchase some.

Read More: Eating Habits News and Eating Habits Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.