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Age and growth of the Patagonian lizard Phymaturus patagonicus

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

The growth dynamics of Phymaturus patagonicus, a diurnal, herbivorous and viviparous lizard from the Argentinean Patagonian steppe, was studied using eight juveniles (two born in the laboratory), 11 adult females and eight adult males. Histological cross sections of femoral bones were analysed to determine if individuals show osseous growth marks and if these marks provide useful age estimates. Individual ages were assessed after estimating the reabsorbed rings in relation to snout-vent length. There was a strong relationship between body length and estimated age, modelled by a sigmoidal curve. Sexual maturity was found to be reached at seven years in females and nine in males and the maximum life span was estimated to be 16 years. No difference in body length was observed between the same-age females and males. We postulate that severe environments such as the north Patagonian steppe play a significant role in the selection of not only modes of reproduction but also delayed maturity and prolonged reproductive cycles, a combination that results in low fecundity.


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