Life-history strategies of Australian lizards: a comparison between the tropics and the temperate zone

Craig James*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have suggested that tropical and temperate-zone lizards may differ fundamentally in life histories. We tested the applicability of this idea to Australian species by comparing temperate-zone species of agamid and scincid lizards with their congeners from the seasonal tropics. Data were derived from dissection of 1,941 specimens and from published information. Clutch size and egg size were positively correlated with mean maternal body size in most lizard species from both climatic zones. Mean body size of the lizards studies did not differ between the tropics and the temperate zone, nor did egg or hatchling size. However, tropical skinks showed considerably (approximately 20%) lower clutch size and relative clutch mass than did temperate-zone skinks. This difference was partly due to the higher incidence of species with low, invariant clutch size in the tropical lizard fauna (as seen in other continents as well), but primarily due to a trend for lineages (especially genera) with relatively high fecundity to be more common in the temperate zone than in the tropics. In contrast to studies on African lizards, our data suggested that modification of clutch size between areas has not occurred within genera: congeneric species from the tropics and temperate zone did not differ in clutch size. Production of more than one clutch per annum by individual females was common in both climatic zones. Tropical lizards may differ from temperate-zone species in showing higher reproductive frequencies, more rapid growth and earlier maturation. However, most of these effects may be due to phenotypic responses to environmental conditions (especially longer annual activity season), rather than to genetically based lifehistory adaptations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-316
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Agamidae
  • Life history
  • Lizards
  • Scincidae
  • Temperate
  • Tropical


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