Effect of habitat fragmentation on some aspects of reproduction among Praomys delectorum sub-populations in the Taita and Kyulu Hills, Kenya
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In small mammals particularly rodents, selection generally favours the production of relatively many offsprings per litter. Intraspecific litter size variation requires individual mothers to establish an optimal litter size in terms of fitness consequences. Because mammalian reproduction is energetically very demanding, litter size decisions are influenced by the maternal condition and environmental factors. Environmental constraints associated with the availability and quality of food during pregnancy and lactation may limit the acceleration in energy expenditure that occurs during reproduction, which may in turn negatively affect reproductive success of small mammals. This study investigated the effect of habitat fragmentation on litter size of Praomys delectorum in three sub-populations of the Taita Hills and the Kyulu Hills population. The presence of foetuses and placental scars were used as litter size indicators. The histology of testes and ovaries, based on routine histological techniques was studied to ascertain the reproductive status of the animals. There was no significant difference in litter size ( F3,15 = 0.126 ns P =0.943) among the different sub-populations. Prominent nuclei of primary spermatocytes in the seminiferous tubules of both abdominal and scrotal testes were indicative of spermatogenesis though germ cells organization was clearer in scrotal testes. The ovary of female with plugged vagina lacked corpora lutea which were nonetheless observed in the ovary of females with perforate vagina though developing Graafian follicles were observed in both. Thus vaginal condition is a good indicator of reproductive status in this species.