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Aseasonal reproduction and high fecundity in the Cape grass lizard, Cordylus anguinus, in a fire-prone habitat

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We investigated life history characters of the Cape grass lizard, Cordylus anguinus, and relate them to survival in the fire-prone habitat in which it occurs. Unlike in other cordylids, reproductive activity was found to be asynchronous among females, with vitellogenic and gravid females encountered virtually throughout the year. Aseasonal breeding will circumvent reduction or complete loss of reproductive effort for any given year due to fire. Female grass-lizards attain significantly larger body sizes than males. Clutch size ranged from three to seventeen and was positively correlated with snout-vent length. Maximum clutch size is more than three times that recorded for any other cordylid. We suggest that high fecundity will allow quick recruitment after a fire. To determine the reproductive cycle exhibited by males, testicular volume and seminiferous tubule diameter were measured, and spermatogenic activity assessed qualitatively, using Licht's classification system. Our data indicate that C. anguinus has a post-nuptial spermatogenic cycle. The species differs from other cordylids having a post-nuptial cycle, in that spermatogenesis already commences in spring.


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