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21 September 2018 Slow growth and delayed maturation in a Critically Endangered insular flying fox (Pteropus natalis)
Christopher M. Todd, David A. Westcott, Karrie Rose, John M. Martin, Justin A. Welbergen
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Abstract

Flying foxes (family Pteropodidae) have distinct life histories given their size, characterized by longevity, low reproductive output, and long gestation. However, they tend to decouple the age at which sexual maturity is reached from the age at which they reach adult dimensions. We examined growth, maturation, and reproduction in the Critically Endangered Christmas Island flying fox (Pteropus natalis) to determine the timing of sexspecific life cycle events and patterns of growth. We estimated that juvenile growth in forearm length and body mass increased at a mean rate of 0.029 ± 0.005 mm/day and 0.33 ± 0.07 g/day for both males and females alike. Using these growth rates, we determined that the birth of pups occurs between December and March, with young becoming volant between June and August. The age at maturation for P. natalis is one of the oldest among all bat species. Juvenile males began to mature 15 months after birth and reached maturity 27 months after birth. Females reached maturity 24 months after birth at a significantly smaller body mass (3.6%) and forearm length (1.4%) than males. Significant sexual dimorphism and bimaturation was observed, with juvenile males being 1.5% and adult males being 1.9% larger on average than females for skeletal dimensions only. Growth and maturation are even slower in P. natalis than in the few other Pteropus species studied to date. The slow growth and delayed maturation of P. natalis imply slower potential population growth rates, further complicating the recovery of this Critically Endangered single-island endemic.

© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Mammalogists. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com
Christopher M. Todd, David A. Westcott, Karrie Rose, John M. Martin, and Justin A. Welbergen "Slow growth and delayed maturation in a Critically Endangered insular flying fox (Pteropus natalis)," Journal of Mammalogy 99(6), 1510-1521, (21 September 2018). https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyy110
Received: 17 April 2018; Accepted: 24 August 2018; Published: 21 September 2018
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KEYWORDS
bats
Chiroptera
Christmas Island
developmental milestones
fruit bats
island conservation
life history
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