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ScienceShot: Boar Mothers Control the Size of Their Piglets

Helen Fields is a freelance science writer based in Washington, D.C.

Variety may be the spice of life, but when it comes to wild boar piglets, variety may be the key to life itself. In the forest of Châteauvillain-Arc-en-Barrois in northeastern France, more than a thousand wild boars (Sus scrofa scrofa) snuffle through the woods, gobbling up acorns, beechnuts, and other food. When resources are scarce, mothers birth about five piglets, all the same size, which fight it out over the most productive teats. Not everyone thrives. You might guess that mothers would make fatter piglets in good food years, but they don't. Instead, they produce litters with a mix of sizes, researchers report online today in Biology Letters. The team thinks that the females do this to quash sibling rivalry. Big piglets can take the most productive teats while little ones get by at the ones that give less milk. And everyone has a better shot at survival.

Posted in Biology, Plants & Animals