Washington, Apr 5 : It is often said that some people are born with 'silver spoons' in their mouths. This phenomenon also holds true for the female red squirrels of Kluane in North America, a University of Alberta study claims.
According to Stan Boutin, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, lucky silver spoon' factors such as food availability and spring temperature can help newborn female squirrels produce more litters themselves later.
Boutin and his fellow researchers further claim that these 'silver spoon' factors experienced between birth and weaning could later influence each squirrel's lifetime fitness, longevity and reproductive success.
Boutin said that these so-called silver spoon effects were masked until the researchers controlled for conditions experienced during adulthood.
The researchers used 15 years of data from a North American Red Squirrel population, and found that female babies born into fortunate circumstances with more food, warmer spring weather and a lower population, experienced long-lasting positive effects on reproductive success, producing more offspring over the remainder of their lives.
On the other hand, squirrels born into rougher circumstances with less food and bitter weather didn't live as long and tended to wean fewer young when they were alive.
"One of the fundamental challenges for ecologists is to determine how resource levels affect the reproductive success of individual animals. Our study shows that some individuals get a real head start on their colleagues simply by being born in a good year. On the other hand, those having the bad luck of being born in a bad year may never get a taste of that silver spoon," said Boutin.