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Cumulative reproductive costs on current reproduction in a wild polytocous mammal.

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The cumulative cost of reproduction hypothesis predicts that reproductive costs accumulate over an individual's reproductive life span. While short-term costs have been extensively explored, the prevalence of cumulative long-term costs and the circumstances under which such costs occur alongside or instead of short-term costs, are far from clear. Indeed, few studies have simultaneously tested for both short-term and cumulative long-term reproductive costs in natural populations. Even in mammals, comparatively little is known about cumulative effects of previous reproduction, especially in species with high variation in offspring numbers, where costs could vary among successful reproductive events. Here, we quantify effects of previous short-term and cumulative long-term reproduction on current reproduction probability and litter size in wild female yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventer) and test how these effects vary with age and between two contrasting environments. We provide evidence for cumulative long-term effects: females that had both reproduced frequently and weaned large litters on average in previous years had decreased current reproduction probability. We found no evidence for short-term reproductive costs between reproductive bouts. However, females weaned larger litters when they had weaned larger litters on average in previous years and had lower current reproduction probability when their previous reproductive success was low. Together these results suggest that, alongside persistent among-individual variation, long-term reproductive history affects current reproductive success.

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