Fitness costs of dispersal in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
Soulsbury, C.D., Baker, P.J., Iossa, G. and Harris, S. (2008) Fitness costs of dispersal in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 62 (8). pp. 1289-1298. ISSN 0340-5443
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00265-008-0557-9
The costs of dispersal are an important factor promoting natal philopatry, thereby encouraging the formation of social groups. The red fox, Vulpes vulpes, exhibits a highly flexible social system and one that is thought to represent a possible stage in the evolution of more complex patterns of group-living. Although the potential benefits accruing to philopatric offspring have previously been studied in this species, the potential costs of dispersal have received less attention. We contrasted survival rates, nutritional status, injuries and reproductive output of dispersing and non-dispersing male and female foxes in an urban population to assess the relative costs of dispersal versus natal philopatry. Mortality rates were not significantly higher for dispersing foxes, either in the short- or long-term. There was no evidence of increased nutritional stress in dispersing individuals. Dispersing individuals did, however, exhibit greater levels of wounding, although this did not appear to affect survival. Dispersing females were more likely to miss a breeding opportunity early in their reproductive lifespan. In contrast, both dispersing and non-dispersing males were unlikely to breed in their first year. We conclude that the major fitness component in females affected by dispersing is age at first reproduction.