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Allometric scaling of the elevation of maternal energy intake during lactation

Abstract : In most mammals, lactating mothers dramatically increase their food intake after parturition and reach a peak intake rate after a certain time while their offspring continue to grow. A common view, perpetuated by the metabolic theory of ecology, is that the allometric scaling of maternal metabolic rate with body mass limits the changes in energy intake and expenditure. Therefore these potential effects of metabolic scaling should be reflected in the elevation of maternal energy intake during lactation. To test this hypothesis, we collected published data on 24 species (13 domesticated) and established scaling relationships for several characteristics of the patterns of energy intake elevation (amplitude of the elevation, time to peak, and cumulative elevation to peak). A curvilinear allometric scaling relationship with maternal body mass (in double-logarithmic space) was found for the amplitude of maternal energy intake elevation, similarly to what has been observed for scaling relationships of basal metabolic rate in non-breeding mammals. This result indirectly supports the metabolic theory of ecology. However, this curvilinear allometric scaling does not seem to drive the scaling relationships found for the other characteristics of maternal energy intake. Both the duration and shape of the energy intake patterns showed substantial variation independently of species’ body mass. Data available for a few mammals, mostly domesticated, provides little evidence for the hypothesis that a single law of metabolic scaling governs the elevation of maternal energy intake after parturition. Obtaining further food intake data in wild species will be crucial to unravel the general mechanisms underlying variation in this unique adaptation of mammalian females.
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Frédéric Douhard, Jean-François Lemaître, Wendy M. Rauw, Nicolas Friggens. Allometric scaling of the elevation of maternal energy intake during lactation. Frontiers in Zoology, BioMed Central, 2016, 13 (1), 12 p. ⟨10.1186/s12983-016-0164-y⟩. ⟨hal-01595317⟩

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