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Preprints, Working Papers, ... Year : 2021

Does timing of birth affect juvenile and mare survival in wild plains zebra?

Abstract

Abstract In large herbivores, the timing of births is mainly driven by the seasonal availability of their food resource. Population dynamics is strongly influenced by juvenile survival and recruitment, which highly depend on whether individuals are born during a favourable period or not. If births often occur during the most suitable season in northern cyclical environments for many large herbivore species, zebra give birth year-round at Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, a tropical bushland characterized by the succession of a favourable wet season and a less favourable dry season. We used capture-recapture models for analysing long term observation data collected between 2008 and 2019 in this zebra population. We investigated the effect of the season (as a categorical variable) and the time spent in dry season on three categories of juveniles (younger foals of less than six months old, older foals between six and twelve months old, and yearlings between one and two years old) and mares survival, according to their reproductive state. The season had no effect on any survival. Younger foals annual survival was not affected by the time spent in dry season, whereas older foals and yearlings annual survival decreased with an increasing exposure to the dry season. Mares annual survival also decreased with an increasing time spent in dry season, whatever the reproductive status, but to a large extend when non-reproducing. The timing of birth, by determining the external conditions experienced by the offspring and their mothers during critical phases of their life cycle, plays a determinant role in their survival. As climate change is expected to lead to more frequent droughts, longer and harsher dry seasons in tropical ecosystems, we hypothesize a detrimental effect on zebra population dynamics in the future.
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Dates and versions

hal-03425899 , version 1 (11-11-2021)

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Lucie Thel, Christophe Bonenfant, Simon Chamaillé-Jammes. Does timing of birth affect juvenile and mare survival in wild plains zebra?. 2021. ⟨hal-03425899⟩
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