, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 92-100

“Costs” of reproduction in reptiles

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Summary

Many theoretical models of life-history evolution rely on the existence of trade-offs between current fecundity and probable future fecundity and survival. Such “costs” of reproduction have been demonstrated only rarely. Field and laboratory studies on six species of Australian scincid lizards show that gravid females are more vulnerable to predation than are non-gravid females, primarily because (i) they are physically burdened (running speeds are reduced by 20 to 30%), and (ii) they bask more often (in some species). However, food intake is not reduced in gravid animals. A review of published literature suggests that reproductive trade-offs are widespread among reptiles, but the nature of the reproductive “costs” may vary widely among related species. Within the range of annual survivorship rates of most lizard species, trade-offs between fecundity and survival are likely to be the main evolutionary determinants of optimal levels of “reproductive effort”. Trade-offs between fecundity and bodily growth are less likely to be significant.