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The European badger Meles meles is thought to mate throughout the year with two mating peaks occurring in late winter/spring and summer/autumn. After mating, fertilized ova enter embryonic diapause (delayed implantation) at the blastocyst stage, which lasts up to eleven months. Even if mating is successful, however, the estrous cycle may continue during embryonic diapause, which suggests that female badgers are capable of superfetation (conception during pregnancy). This may increase female fitness by facilitating polyandry, and reduce the risk of infanticide by resident males through paternity confusion. Detailed understanding of female receptivity, specifically the association of superfetation with embryonic diapause, may explain field observations of seemingly inconsistent reproductive tactics of male badgers with regard to, for instance, whether or not they guard mates or defend territories. The combination of embryonic diapause and superfetation may occur in other mustelids; if so, the sociobiology of mustelids will need reevaluating, and the Mustelidae may prove to be a good model taxon for studies of sexual conflict in the reproduction of eutherian mammals.


Journal article


Q Rev Biol

Publication Date





33 - 48


Animals, Blastocyst, Embryo Implantation, Embryo Implantation, Delayed, Embryonic Development, Female, Fertilization, Male, Mustelidae, Pregnancy, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Superfetation, Territoriality