Squamate hatchling size and the evolutionary causes of negative offspring size allometry

Shai Meiri, A. Feldman, L. Kratochvíl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although fecundity selection is ubiquitous, in an overwhelming majority of animal lineages, small species produce smaller number of offspring per clutch. In this context, egg, hatchling and neonate sizes are absolutely larger, but smaller relative to adult body size in larger species. The evolutionary causes of this widespread phenomenon are not fully explored. The negative offspring size allometry can result from processes limiting maximal egg/offspring size forcing larger species to produce relatively smaller offspring ('upper limit'), or from a limit on minimal egg/offspring size forcing smaller species to produce relatively larger offspring ('lower limit'). Several reptile lineages have invariant clutch sizes, where females always lay either one or two eggs per clutch. These lineages offer an interesting perspective on the general evolutionary forces driving negative offspring size allometry, because an important selective factor, fecundity selection in a single clutch, is eliminated here. Under the upper limit hypotheses, large offspring should be selected against in lineages with invariant clutch sizes as well, and these lineages should therefore exhibit the same, or shallower, offspring size allometry as lineages with variable clutch size. On the other hand, the lower limit hypotheses would allow lineages with invariant clutch sizes to have steeper offspring size allometries. Using an extensive data set on the hatchling and female sizes of > 1800 species of squamates, we document that negative offspring size allometry is widespread in lizards and snakes with variable clutch sizes and that some lineages with invariant clutch sizes have unusually steep offspring size allometries. These findings suggest that the negative offspring size allometry is driven by a constraint on minimal offspring size, which scales with a negative allometry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-446
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Anolis
  • Body size
  • Clutch size
  • Egg size
  • Geckos
  • Life history
  • Relative clutch mass
  • Reproduction
  • Squamata


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