The role of maternal behavior and offspring development in the survival of mountain goat kids

Oecologia. 2015 May;178(1):175-86. doi: 10.1007/s00442-014-3198-x. Epub 2015 Jan 4.


Studies on juvenile survival have mainly focused on the effects of environmental conditions and maternal traits. However, growing evidence indicates that the ability of parents to care for their young and the offspring developmental behaviors could be key determinants of their survival. We examined the relative influence of (1) environmental conditions, (2) offspring traits, (3) maternal traits, (4) maternal care behaviors, and (5) offspring developmental behaviors on kid survival to weaning and to 1 year old in mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus). Offspring development and maternal care directly affected offspring survival, and this more importantly than did environmental conditions and maternal traits. Frequency of play strongly increased survival before weaning. Greater maternal care increased offspring survival during winter, directly and indirectly through kid mass. Kid mass was also a major determinant of both summer and winter survival. Environmental conditions mainly influenced summer survival while maternal characteristics indirectly affected winter survival through an effect on kid mass. Behavioral adaptations of maternal care and offspring development to local selective pressures can lead to local adaptations and have greater implications in population dynamic studies than previously believed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Body Weight
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Phenotype*
  • Play and Playthings
  • Ruminants / growth & development*
  • Seasons*
  • Weaning