Bandeira, V., Virgós, E., Azevedo, A., Cunha, M.V. & Fonseca, C. (2021) Association between reproduction and immunity in Herpestes ichneumon is sex‐biased and unaffected by body condition.Journal of Zoology, 313(2), 124-134. DOI:10.1111/jzo.12842 (IF2021 2,394; Q1 Zoology)
The Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) is a carnivore in expansion on the western limits of Europe, where its reproductive ecology is unknown. In this study, we weighed and measured the gonads of 507 wild‐caught mongooses ranging its geographical distribution and all seasons of the year. Based on the variation in gonad weight, we determined periods of reproductive activity for females (December–June) and males (throughout the year), with both sexes showing a peak in gonad weight during February. We also identified periods of lactation (March‐August, n = 10), gestation (December–July, n = 20) and mean litter size (1–4 offspring, 2.75 ± 0.79, n = 20). Next, we constructed two separate models to explain the variation in ovarian and testicular weight, using age cohort, season and region, spleen weight, body condition and the environmental variables habitat, river network and Egyptian mongoose density as predictors. Ovarian weight was influenced by season and spleen weight. Females with heavier ovaries were found in spring and simultaneously exhibited heavier spleens. Testicular weight was influenced by season, spleen weight and age, as well as several environmental variables. Males with lower spleen weight exhibited heavier testes, indicating a male‐specific negative association between reproductive and immune activity. Overall, the results of this study refine our knowledge on Egyptian mongoose reproductive ecology. They indicate that reproduction timing is determined by females, whose breeding is seasonal but who are unaffected by the set of environmental variables we tested, as opposed to males, who are influenced by these environmental conditions and seem to be reproductively active year round. These results also support a negative reproduction‐immunity trade‐off in males, that is independent of body condition and absent in females.