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Mongoose moms risk own survival to protect unborn kids

A zebra mongoose tries to grab food from inside an ostrich egg i

Washington : When it comes to protecting their unborn children, mother mongooses may risk death, according to a recent study.

Pregnancy can take a physical toll that, according to some theories, may increase the mother’s levels of toxic metabolites that cause oxidative damage.

Increased oxidative damage can cause complications during pregnancy, but these results show how some mammals have evolved to specifically minimize such damage, albeit only temporarily.

“We think mother mongooses shield their offspring by reducing their own levels of oxidative damage during breeding;” explained lead author Dr Emma Vitikainen of the University of Exeter, “However, she could be trading her own long term well being for the short term benefit of protecting the growing pups.”

Vitikainen and her colleagues followed groups of wild banded mongooses over five years, measuring oxidative damage markers as well as the animals’ health and survival. Oxidative damage is a normal byproduct of metabolism throughout an animal’s lifespan, but they found that pregnant mongooses showed lower than expected toxin levels, refuting current theories that damage increases during pregnancy.

The mongooses with the least evidence of oxidative damage were also the most successful at reproducing. They had the largest litters of pups, and these pups had higher chances of surviving to independence. Not all mongooses showed the same protective capabilities however, and mongooses with more oxidative damage produced pups with lower survival rates, while also being in poor health themselves.

The research is published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.(ANI)

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