Relationships of maternal body size and morphology with egg and clutch size in the diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin (Testudines: Emydidae)

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Abstract

Because resources are finite, female animals face trade-offs between the size and number of offspring they are able to produce during a single reproductive event. Optimal egg size (OES) theory predicts that any increase in resources allocated to reproduction should increase clutch size with minimal effects on egg size. Variations of OES predict that egg size should be optimized, although not necessarily constant across a population, because optimality is contingent on maternal phenotypes, such as body size and morphology, and recent environmental conditions. We examined the relationships among body size variables (pelvic aperture width, caudal gap height, and plastron length), clutch size, and egg width of diamondback terrapins from separate but proximate populations at Kiawah Island and Edisto Island, South Carolina. We found that terrapins do not meet some of the predictions of OES theory. Both populations exhibited greater variation in egg size among clutches than within, suggesting an absence of optimization except as it may relate to phenotype/habitat matching. We found that egg size appeared to be constrained by more than just pelvic aperture width in Kiawah terrapins but not in the Edisto population. Terrapins at Edisto appeared to exhibit osteokinesis in the caudal region of their shells, which may aid in the oviposition of large eggs.

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Kern, M. M., Guzy, J. C., Lovich, J. E., Gibbons, J. W., & Dorcas, M. E. (2016). Relationships of maternal body size and morphology with egg and clutch size in the diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin (Testudines: Emydidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 117(2), 295–304. https://doi.org/10.1111/bij.12655

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