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Variability of breeding resource partitioning in a lacertid lizard at field scale

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Human activities cause increasingly deep alterations to natural environments. Yet, the effects on vertebrates with low dispersal capacity are still poorly investigated, especially at field scale. Life history variation represents one means by which species can adapt to a changing environment. Among vertebrates, lizards exhibit a high degree of variation in life-history traits, often associated with environmental variability. We examined the female breeding output of Podarcis siculus (Lacertidae) inside agricultural habitats, to test whether different cultivation and management influence the life-history traits of this species. Interestingly, we recorded variability of female breeding output at a very fine scale, namely among adjacent vineyards and olive orchards under different management levels. Lizards displayed the lowest breeding effort in the almost unmanaged sites, while clutch mass, relative fecundity and mean egg mass slightly increased in more intensively managed sites. However, in the most intensive cultivations we detected a life-history trade-off, where eggs from larger clutches tended to be relatively smaller than eggs from smaller clutches. This pattern suggests that agriculture can influence lizard reproductive output, partly favouring it in the presence of medium intensity cultivation but causing, in the most intensively managed sites, some environmental constraints that require a peculiar partitioning of the breeding resources. Even though further studies are needed to clarify the mechanisms driving the observed pattern, our results can be considered a starting point for evaluating the analysis of lizard breeding features as a tool to assess the impact of human activities, at least in agricultural environments.

Affiliations: 1: Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università degli Studi di Firenze, Sezione di Zoologia “La Specola”, Via Romana 17, 50125 Florence, Italy

*Corresponding author; e-mail:

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