Macroclimatic and maternal effects on the evolution of reproductive traits in lizards

Dylan J. Padilla Perez, Michael J. Angilletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much of life-history theory rests on fundamental assumptions about constraints on the acquisition and allocation of energy to growth and reproduction. In general, the allocation of energy to reproduction depends on maternal size, which in turn depends on environmental factors experienced throughout the life of the mother. Here, we used phylogenetic path analyses to evaluate competing hypotheses about the environmental and maternal drivers of reproductive traits in lizards. In doing so, we discovered that precipitation, rather than temperature, has shaped the evolution of the life history. Specifically, environments with greater rainfall have enabled the evolution of larger maternal size. In turn, these larger mothers produce larger clutches of larger offspring. However, annual precipitation has a negative direct effect on offspring size, despite the positive indirect effect mediated by maternal size. Possibly, the evolution of offspring size was driven by the need to conserve water in dry environments, because small organisms are particularly sensitive to water loss. Since we found that body size variation among lizards is related to a combination of climatic factors, mainly precipitation and perhaps primary production, our study challenges previous generalizations (e.g., temperature-size rule and Bergmann's rule) and suggests alternative mechanisms underlying the evolution of body size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere8885
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • adaptation
  • energetics
  • fecundity
  • reproductive output
  • tradeoffs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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