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Re: Carnivore Energetics: Why Are Lions Not As Big As Elephants?

> Further,
> I don't believe there is any physiological constraint on a large
> mammal having many small babies rather than one large one.

I think there is.

Mammals have two sets of teeth at most. If the offspring is several
orders of magnitude smaller than the mother, they would have to be
suckled for a *long* time. Otherwise, they would need a first set of
teeth when they are very small, they need an approximately adult-sized
set for later, and in between their teeth would show very large
gaps. The alternative were for the mother to suckle them for a long
time (marsupial strategy) until they are large enough that the first
set of teeth will get them over to the size where the second set can
come in. This, however, becomes equivalent to the other strategy.

Please also note in this discussion that the two strategies (r and k)
are usually interpreted as answers to different conditions: the
child-care strategy is good if you are living on a rather constant
food source, the mass-offspring strategy is better if food source
availability may vary strongly, so you can get a lot of offspring
quickly when a sudden plentiness of food is available.


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