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Optimal egg size in a suboptimal environment: reproductive ecology of female Sonora mud turtles (Kinosternon sonoriense) in central Arizona, USA

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We studied the reproductive ecology of female Sonora mud turtles (Kinosternon sonoriense) at Montezuma Well, a chemically-challenging natural wetland in central Arizona, USA. Females matured between 115.5 and 125 mm carapace length (CL) and 36-54% produced eggs each year. Eggs were detected in X-radiographs from 23 April-28 September (2007-2008) and the highest proportion (56%) of adult females with eggs occurred in June and July. Clutch frequency was rarely more than once per year. Clutch size was weakly correlated with body size, ranged from 1-8 (mean = 4.96) and did not differ significantly between years. X-ray egg width ranged from 17.8-21.7 mm (mean 19.4 mm) and varied more among clutches than within. Mean X-ray egg width of a clutch did not vary significantly with CL of females, although X-ray pelvic aperture width increased with CL. We observed no evidence of a morphological constraint on egg width. In addition, greater variation in clutch size, relative to egg width, suggests that egg size is optimized in this hydrologically stable but chemically-challenging habitat. We suggest that the diversity of architectures exhibited by the turtle pelvis, and their associated lack of correspondence to taxonomic or behavioral groupings, explains some of the variation observed in egg size of turtles.

Affiliations: 1: 1U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center, 2255 North Gemini Drive, Flagstaff, Arizona 86001, USA; 2: 4National Park Service, Montezuma Castle National Monument, 527 South Main Street, Camp Verde, Arizona 86322, USA; 3: 5Laboratory “Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics”, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science – Semlalia, Cadi Ayyad University, Avenue Prince Moulay Abdellah, P.O. Box 2390, 40000, Marrakech, Morocco

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2012-01-02
2016-12-10

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