University Of Tasmania

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Selection and constraints on offspring size-number trade-offs in sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 21:12 authored by Ljungstrom, G, Stjernstedt, M, Erik WapstraErik Wapstra, Olsson, M
The trade-off between offspring size and number is a central component of life-history theory, postulating that larger investment into offspring size inevitably decreases offspring number. This trade-off is generally discussed in terms of genetic, physiological or morphological constraints; however, as among-individual differences can mask individual trade-offs, the underlying mechanisms may be difficult to reveal. In this study, we use multivariate analyses to investigate whether there is a trade-off between offspring size and number in a population of sand lizards by separating among- and within-individual patterns using a 15-year data set collected in the wild. We also explore the ecological and evolutionary causes and consequences of this trade-off by investigating how a female's resource (condition)- vs. age-related size (snout-vent length) influences her investment into offspring size vs. number (OSN), whether these traits are heritable and under selection and whether the OSN trade-off has a genetic component. We found a negative correlation between offspring size and number within individual females and physical constraints (size of body cavity) appear to limit the number of eggs that a female can produce. This suggests that the OSN trade-off occurs due to resource constraints as a female continues to grow throughout life and, thus, produces larger clutches. In contrast to the assumptions of classic OSN theory, we did not detect selection on offspring size; however, there was directional selection for larger clutch sizes. The repeatabilities of both offspring size and number were low and we did not detect any additive genetic variance in either trait. This could be due to strong selection (past or current) on these life-history traits, or to insufficient statistical power to detect significant additive genetic effects. Overall, the findings of this study are an important illustration of how analyses of within-individual patterns can reveal trade-offs and their underlying causes, with potential evolutionary and ecological consequences that are otherwise hidden by among-individual variation.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Journal of Evolutionary Biology










School of Natural Sciences


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

Copyright European Society for Evolutionary Biology

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences

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