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Effect of ecological adaptation on suckling behaviour in three zebra species

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The three existing zebra species differ in their ecology: in the wild, mountain (Equus zebra) and Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) live in an arid environment while plains zebra (Equus quagga) inhabit savannah. Interspecific differences in maternal care in terms of suckling bout duration and frequency are thought to be based on the ecological adaptations of equid species. However, other studies showed that suckling bout duration and frequency cannot reflect maternal investment. The aim of this study was to re-evaluate the suggestion of previous studies that suckling behaviour is influenced by environmental adaptations in equids using rejection and termination of suckling bouts in three captive zebra species kept in the same facility. Suckling behaviour of all three zebra species was observed over a period of 31 months at the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Czech Republic. We found that Grevy’s and mountain zebra showed a lower rate of rejection and termination of suckling bouts by the mother than plains zebra. Therefore, mothers of species that evolved in a more arid habitat were more tolerant towards their offspring than those of species that evolved in a mesic habitat. Thus, our results confirmed that parent–offspring conflict in terms of suckling bout termination and rejection seems to be affected by ecological adaptation.

Affiliations: 1: cInstitute of Tropics and Subtropics, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamýcká 1176, 165 21 Praha 6 Suchdol, Czech Republic; 2: aDepartment of Ethology, Institute of Animal Science, Přátelství 815, 104 00 Praha — Uhříněves, Czech Republic

10.1163/1568539X-00003028
/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003028
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/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003028
2012-01-01
2016-12-09

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