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Reproductive allocation strategies: a long-term study on proximate factors and temporal adjustments in a viviparous lizard


Optimisation of reproductive investment is crucial for Darwinian fitness, and detailed long-term studies are especially suited to unravel reproductive allocation strategies. Allocation strategies depend on the timing of resource acquisition, the timing of resource allocation, and trade-offs between different life-history traits. A distinction can be made between capital breeders that fuel reproduction with stored resources and income breeders that use recently acquired resources. In capital breeders, but not in income breeders, energy allocation may be decoupled from energy acquisition. Here, we tested the influence of extrinsic (weather conditions) and intrinsic (female characteristics) factors during energy storage, vitellogenesis and early gestation on reproductive investment, including litter mass, litter size, offspring mass and the litter size and offspring mass trade-off. We used data from a long-term study of the viviparous lizard, Lacerta (Zootoca) vivipara. In terms of extrinsic factors, rainfall during vitellogenesis was positively correlated with litter size and mass, but temperature did not affect reproductive investment. With respect to intrinsic factors, litter size and mass were positively correlated with current body size and postpartum body condition of the previous year, but negatively with parturition date of the previous year. Offspring mass was negatively correlated with litter size, and the strength of this trade-off decreased with the degree of individual variation in resource acquisition, which confirms theoretical predictions. The combined effects of past intrinsic factors and current weather conditions suggest that common lizards combine both recently acquired and stored resources to fuel reproduction. The effect of past energy store points out a trade-off between current and future reproduction.

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We are grateful to the students who helped collect data and to the Parc National des Cévennes and the Office National des Forêts for providing good conditions during fieldwork. We thank Météo-France for providing the weather data used in this study. Financial support was received from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (grant 07-JCJC-0120 to J.F.L.G and grant 07-BLAN-0217 to M.M. and J.C.), the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (CGL2005-01187, CGL2008-01522, and Programa Ramón y Cajal to P. S. F.), the Swiss National Science Foundation (PPOOP3_128375) and the Ministère de l’Éducation Supérieure et de la Recherche (PhD grant to J.B.).

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Correspondence to Josefa Bleu.

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Communicated by Raoul Van Damme.

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Bleu, J., Le Galliard, JF., Fitze, P.S. et al. Reproductive allocation strategies: a long-term study on proximate factors and temporal adjustments in a viviparous lizard. Oecologia 171, 141–151 (2013).

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  • Capital breeder
  • Energy allocation
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Viviparity
  • Trade-off