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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Consequences of maternal effects on offspring size, growth and survival in the desert tortoise

  • Author(s): Nafus, MG
  • Todd, BD
  • Buhlmann, KA
  • Tuberville, TD
  • et al.

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© 2015 The Zoological Society of London. Maternal body size can have notable consequences on reproductive success. For example, fecundity often increases with body size. Less is known, however, about the relationship between maternal size and factors affecting offspring fitness, including size, growth and survival. Here, we examined the relationship between hatchling and maternal body size in the Mojave Desert tortoise Gopherus agassizii. We further examined the relationships between survival and growth after 1 year and size at hatching. We found that larger females tended to produce larger offspring; post-hatching growth and survival also correlated positively with size at hatching. Our results suggest that, in desert tortoises, maternal body size may indirectly influence offspring fitness via growth and survival for at least the first year of life. Such an advantage early in life may confer long-term benefits for individuals, especially in species thought to have high juvenile mortality or that inhabit highly variable environments.

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