The role of genetics on neonatal physiological variability was examined in the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus). Since armadillos give birth to only monozygous quadruplets, the genetic variation within litters is essentially zero. Quadruplets born in captivity were isolated and weighed within 8 h of birth. Oxygen consumption (V.(O2)) was measured in resting neonates by flow-through respirometry, heart rate obtained from an electrocardiogram and ventilation was measured by impedance techniques. Following the measurements, neonates were returned to the mother. Measurements were repeated at 4 and 8 days after birth. Mean heart rate significantly increased from 132 beats min(−1) on the day of birth to 169 beats min(−1) on day 8. Mean ventilation rate significantly decreased from 81 breaths min(−1) on the day of birth to 54 breaths min(−1) on day 8. During this same developmental period, mean mass significantly increased from 100 g to 129 g, and mean mass-specific oxygen consumption significantly decreased from 32.2 ml O(2)kg(−1)min(−1) to 28.6 ml O(2)kg(−1) min(−1). For all variables measured, within-litter variability was always significantly less than between-litter variability, confirming a ‘sibling effect’ that we attribute to the genetic components determining physiological characters.

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