Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Squirrel Moms' Stress Aids Pup Survival

By Susan M. Reiss, National Science Foundation | December 09, 2014 12:06am ET

This Research in Action article was provided to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

If jam-packed highways, back-to-back meetings and too little time for "to-do" lists make you tense, consider the red squirrels of the Yukon . Regardless of how much food they have, these mammals experience a significant amount of stress when their numbers increase.

During population booms, this compact mammal, which weighs about as much as a cell phone, breeds earlier in the year and produces smaller-sized litters with pups that grow quickly. But what cues the females to hasten their offspring's growth? To answer this question,Ben Dantzer at the University of Michigan and colleagues with the Kluane Red Squirrel Project hooked up hundreds of speakers in the forest and simulated a burgeoning population by blaring squirrel chatter.

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