The reproductive rates of Australian rodents

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The reproductive rates of about 50 species of Australian rodents were studied by calculating allometric equations for the relationships between female body weight, litter size, length of gestation and weaning periods as well as age of sexual maturity. Members of the subfamily Hydromyinae, which invaded Australia 5-10 million years ago, are characterised by small litters, long gestation and weaning periods and late maturity. The opposite is true for the Murinae (Rattus and Mus) which invaded Australia during the Pleistocene. Among the species of this latter group, those which invaded earlier have reproductive rates closer to the old invaders, while those which arrived with the Europeans during the last 200 years have the highest reproductive rates. Possible reasons for the low reproductive rates of Australian rodents are discussed. It is concluded that the rain forest origin of the hydromyinids is one of the factors responsible for their low reproductive rate. They maintained this rate to the present time because of the unpredictability of the climate and the low productivity of many Australian habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-255
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1985
Externally publishedYes


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