The temporal pattern of reproduction and its consequences for age structure and density were investigated in a population of the gracile mouse opossum Gracilinanus microtarsus in south-eastern Brazil. Individuals of G. microtarsus were monitored through capture–mark–recapture methods from August 2000 to February 2003 in a remnant of cerradão, a forest-like physiognomy of the highly seasonal cerrado biome. The temporal pattern of reproduction of the population studied was highly seasonal with rearing of the offspring occurring in the first half of the warm-wet season, when the abundance of food resources – primarily insects – in the cerrado is high. Shortly after reproduction, the density of adults decreased sharply, possibly because of high post-mating mortality, leading to a gradual replacement of adults by their offspring in the following months and little overlap of generations. Our data suggest that climatic and environmental factors affect the onset of reproduction and interact with endogenous factors that decrease post-mating survival to produce the observed pattern of seasonal variation in age structure and density. It is suggested that the dynamics of populations of G. microtarsus may be driven primarily by food limitation and that long-term studies are needed to understand its feedback structure.
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