Many organisms delay the initiation of repro- duction even though such delay is not adaptive in a constant environment. Theoretical arguments in this paper show that delaying reproduction can increase fitness in a sufficiently variable environment. This paper uses stochastic demography to analyze the fluctuating population structure produced by environmental uncertainty. The results explain previously puz- zling features of life cycle delays observed in nature, predicting that populations of the same species living in environments of differing harshness can display different life history pheno- types, a number of distinct life history phenotypes can coexist neutrally within a single population, and genetic polymor- phisms are easily maintained if heterozygotes have intermedi- ate life history phenotypes.
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