1. A major focus of life-history research has been the analysis of reproductive effort (RE). However, while clearly defined in theory, RE has proved very difficult to measure. Consequently, researchers have looked for indices that estimate the components of RE. Uncritical use of indices of reproductive investment, such as measures of costs of reproduction, without verification of the underlying assumptions of the link between these traits, may lead to spurious conclusions. In this paper, the common assumption that the physical burden of the clutch impairs locomotor ability in gravid reptiles is examined.
2. Two neighbouring populations of Australian scincid lizards (Lampropholis guichenoti) are similar in adult body sizes, body shapes and reproductive output (egg sizes, clutch sizes, relative clutch masses).
3. Despite morphological and reproductive similarities, the effects of pregnancy on maternal locomotor ability (running speeds, as measured in a laboratory raceway) differed dramatically between the two populations.
4. Lizards from the two populations ran at similar speeds when nongravid (i.e. after egg-laying), but pregnancy significantly reduced running speeds in one population and increased them in the other. Thus, superficial similarities in body size and reproductive output masked a strong divergence in the locomotor 'costs' of reproduction.
5. Caution is advised if using simple measures of reproductive output (e.g. relative clutch mass) as indices of reproductive effort, or to generalize results even among conspecific populations.
- Lampropholis guichenoti
- Locomotor ability
- Relative clutch mass