Understanding mammary activity in red-rumped agouti and implications for management and conservation of this Neotropical game species
Abstract The red-rumped agouti (Dasyprocta leporina) produces precocial young and is the most hunted and farmed game species in several Neotropical countries. An understanding of the reproductive biology, including the relationship between litter size and teat functionality is crucial for conservation management of this animal. In precocial mammals, as the red-rumped agouti, maintaining maternal contact to learn foraging patterns may be more important than the energy demands and nutritional constraints during lactation and suckling may not play important roles when compared to altricial mammals. Therefore, in this study we evaluated the relationship between mammary functionality with litter size, litter birth weight, and parturition number in captive red-rumped agouti. Functionality was assessed by manual palpation of teats from un-sedated females (N=43). We compared the average birth weight of all newborns, male newborns and female newborns among agoutis with different litter sizes and different parturitions by one way ANOVA’s, while Pearson’s Chi-squared tests were used to detect relationships between teat functionality, litter size, and parturition number. Parturition number had no effect on the mean birth weight of all young (F0.822, P > 0.05), male young (F0.80, P > 0.05) or female young (F0.66, P > 0.05) in the litters. We found (i) no significant correlations (P > 0.05) between teat functionality and litter size and (ii) no significant correlations (P > 0.05) between teat functionality and parturition number. This suggests that whilst all teat pairs were functional, functionality was a poor indicator of litter size; suggesting that female agouti young may not have a high dependency on maternal nutrition; an possible evolutionary strategy resulting in large wild populations; hence its popularity as a game species.