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Breeding traits of Hermann's tortoise Testudo hermanni hermanni in two western populations

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Over a period of two years we used radiology to investigate breeding traits in females of two western populations of the threatened Hermann's tortoise Testudo hermanni hermanni. The main purpose of the study was to see if reproductive traits – clutch size, clutch frequency, annual egg production and egg width – varied between populations in Corsica (France) and the Ebro Delta (Spain), and if these traits were affected by female body size and amounts of spring rainfall. All the breeding traits analysed were greater in the Corsican population than in the Ebro Delta population. These differences were also significant when we used female body size as a covariable. In both populations the amount of spring rainfall affected breeding traits but not clutch size. Nevertheless, only in the Corsican population did clutch frequency, annual egg production and egg width increase significantly in the year with a wet spring. Contrary to the predictions of Optimal Propagule Size theory, we found that egg size and clutch size increased with female size, and that both variables were independent. On the other hand, clutch frequency was not related to female body size. Thus, in the Hermann's tortoise, as clutch size did not change between years and clutch frequency was independent of female size, all females are able to increase their reproductive output in years with favourable conditions by increasing their clutch frequency. Nevertheless, other factors besides female size and rainfall may influence in a highly complex way variability in breeding traits among populations.


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