The ecology of lizard reproductive output

Shai Meiri*, James H. Brown, Richard M. Sibly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim We provide a new quantitative analysis of lizard reproductive ecology. Comparative studies of lizard reproduction to date have usually considered life-history components separately. Instead, we examine the rate of production (productivity hereafter) calculated as the total mass of offspring produced in a year. We test whether productivity is influenced by proxies of adult mortality rates such as insularity and fossorial habits, by measures of temperature such as environmental and body temperatures, mode of reproduction and activity times, and by environmental productivity and diet. We further examine whether low productivity is linked to high extinction risk. Location World-wide. Methods We assembled a database containing 551 lizard species, their phylogenetic relationships and multiple life history and ecological variables from the literature. We use phylogenetically informed statistical models to estimate the factors related to lizard productivity. Results Some, but not all, predictions of metabolic and life-history theories are supported. When analysed separately, clutch size, relative clutch mass and brood frequency are poorly correlated with body mass, but their product - productivity - is well correlated with mass. The allometry of productivity scales similarly to metabolic rate, suggesting that a constant fraction of assimilated energy is allocated to production irrespective of body size. Island species were less productive than continental species. Mass-specific productivity was positively correlated with environmental temperature, but not with body temperature. Viviparous lizards were less productive than egg-laying species. Diet and primary productivity were not associated with productivity in any model. Other effects, including lower productivity of fossorial, nocturnal and active foraging species were confounded with phylogeny. Productivity was not lower in species at risk of extinction. Main conclusions Our analyses show the value of focusing on the rate of annual biomass production (productivity), and generally supported associations between productivity and environmental temperature, factors that affect mortality and the number of broods a lizard can produce in a year, but not with measures of body temperature, environmental productivity or diet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-602
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Body size
  • Diet
  • Insularity
  • Mortality
  • Oviparity
  • Phylogenetic comparative methods
  • Productivity
  • Reproductive output
  • Temperature
  • Viviparity


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