Reproductive success of females in iteroparous species usually increases early in life, then remains constant or declines. The restraint hypothesis suggests that primiparous females limit their 1st reproduction in order to avoid future costs to survival, reproduction, or both, whereas constraint indicates that primiparous females are limited in their 1st reproductive attempt either because they lack sufficient resources (measured by body mass) or lack experience at weaning a litter. To evaluate these alternatives, we examined age- and experience-related patterns of reproduction in female Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus) with data from a long-term study and by experimentally altering age at 1st reproduction. In the results of the long-term study, experienced females had significantly higher reproductive investment and reproductive success (number of offspring surviving to yearling age) compared to inexperienced females. Annual survival of females was not affected by their level of previous weaning experience or current reproductive investment. Additionally, subsequent reproductive success was not impaired by earlier reproduction. In the experimental results, experienced females had significantly higher reproductive investments compared to inexperienced females. Constraint in terms of previous weaning experience best explained the differences in reproductive investment and reproductive success between primiparous and multiparous females.
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