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Life-history traits of two Mediterranean lizard populations: a possible example of countergradient covariation

AuthorsIraeta, Pablo; Salvador Milla, Alfredo ; Díaz, José A.
KeywordsAltitudinal gradients
Clutch size
Egg size
Food availability
Issue Date2013
CitationOecologia 172: 167–176 (2013)
AbstractThe trade-off between clutch and offspring size, which is a central topic in life-history research, is shaped by natural selection to maximize the number of surviving offspring, but it also depends on the resources available for reproduction. Conspecific populations living in different environments may differ in adult body size, clutch mass, clutch size, offspring size, and/or post-natal growth rates, due either to phenotypic plasticity or to local adaptation. Here, we compare these traits and their relationships between two populations of the lizard Psammodromus algirus separated by a 600-m altitudinal gradient. We used a common garden design to control incubation temperature and food availability, with two different feeding treatments. Females were larger at the high-elevation site. Although SVL-adjusted clutch mass did not differ between populations, high-elevation females laid more but smaller eggs than low-elevation ones. Hatchlings were larger at lower elevation. Our common garden experiment revealed that low-elevation hatchlings grewfaster than high-elevation hatchlings under both feeding treatments. However, higher food availability at higher altitude allows high-elevation lizards to grow faster and attain larger adult sizes, especially in the case of females. The two key adaptations of low-elevation lizards, large eggs and hatchlings and the ability to grow rapidly after hatching, are likely to enhance survival in low-productivity Mediterranean lowlands. Our data support the hypothesis that the reproductive strategies of these populations provide an example of countergradient variation, because the genotypes that encode for fast growth and large body size occurred in low food availability habitats where juveniles grewslowly and attained small adult sizes.
DescriptionReceived: 1 October 2011 / Accepted: 27 September 2012 / Published online: 18 October 2012
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-012-2492-8
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