The breeding and reproductive biology of the vlei rat Otomys irroratus.
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The breeding and reproductive biology of the vlei rat Otomys irroratus representing three allopatric populations (Committee's Drift, Hogsback and Karkloof) have been studied in the laboratory. The study attempted to establish whether the three populations differed in respect of selected reproductive parameters, and whether the populations are reproductively isolated from one another. The breeding biology of the Hogsback and Karkloof populations was similar while the Committee's Drift population differed from the other two in respect of its smaller litter size and increased interval between pairing and the production of the first litter. Pre-copulatory behaviour differed among populations, with a gradation of increasing intersexual aggression from Hogsback to Karkloof to Committee's Drift pairs. Postnatal growth and development patterns, as well as male reproductive morphology, were indistinguishable among the populations. Attempts at interpopulation breeding were successful. However, some hybrids died before weaning, while those that survived beyond weaning were sterile, particularly those resulting from cross-matings of Hogsback animals with individuals representing the other populations. Interpopulation pairs displayed higher levels of agonistic interaction than did the pure pairings. Growth and development and the reproductive morphology of male hybrids were indistinguishable from those of the parental populations. Interpopulation reproductive variation in o. irroratus appears to be due to a combination of environmental and phylogenetic constraints. 80th pre- and post-zygotic isolating mechanisms would impede gene flow between the populations should they meet in nature. All populations appear to be undergoing active speciation.