Length of activity season drives geographic variation in body size of a widely distributed lizard
Horváthová T., Cooney CR., Fitze PS., Oksanen TA., Jelić D., Ghira I., Uller T., Jandzik D.
Understanding the factors that drive geographic variation in life history is an important challenge in evolutionary ecology. Here, we analyze what predicts geographic variation in life-history traits of the common lizard, Zootoca vivipara, which has the globally largest distribution range of all terrestrial reptile species. Variation in body size was predicted by differences in the length of activity season, while we found no effects of environmental temperature per se. Females experiencing relatively short activity season mature at a larger size and remain larger on average than females in populations with relatively long activity seasons. Interpopulation variation in fecundity was largely explained by mean body size of females and reproductive mode, with viviparous populations having larger clutch size than oviparous populations. Finally, body size-fecundity relationship differs between viviparous and oviparous populations, with relatively lower reproductive investment for a given body size in oviparous populations. While the phylogenetic signal was weak overall, the patterns of variation showed spatial effects, perhaps reflecting genetic divergence or geographic variation in additional biotic and abiotic factors. Our findings emphasize that time constraints imposed by the environment rather than ambient temperature play a major role in shaping life histories in the common lizard. This might be attributed to the fact that lizards can attain their preferred body temperature via behavioral thermoregulation across different thermal environments. Length of activity season, defining the maximum time available for lizards to maintain optimal performance, is thus the main environmental factor constraining growth rate and annual rates of mortality. Our results suggest that this factor may partly explain variation in the extent to which different taxa follow ecogeographic rules. © 2013 The Authors.